After being accused of “hatred”… Youcef Atal appeals his prison sentence in France

The lawyers of French club Nice Algerian football player Youcef Atal have announced appealing the suspended prison sentence issued against him, due to his support for the Palestinian cause.

Atal was sentenced to an 8-month suspended sentence and a fine of 45,000 euros, on charges of incitement to hatred based on religion.

The player’s lawyer, Antoine Faye, told the media: “He sent a message of support to the Palestinians in Gaza. For him, this is peace, and he is not the only one.”

Atal posted a video on his official Instagram account talking about the suffering of the Palestinians during the war, but he expressed his regret for not having watched it until the end.

He was referring to video clips he posted on his social media account, in which a Palestinian sheikh appears calling for a “black day for the Jews.”

The player deleted the video clip and apologized, but the Nice club decided to suspend the player and refer him to the disciplinary committee, and the mayor of Nice notified the Public Prosecution, accusing the player of defending terrorism.

The French police placed Atal in pretrial detention last November, after which he was referred to the Public Prosecution Office, and the player was placed under judicial supervision on bail of 80,000 euros and banned from leaving French territory, except for football-related activities with the national team and the club.

Atal was called up by his country’s national team to participate in the 2023 African Cup of Nations in Côte d’Ivoire, during the period between January 13 and February 11.

Last October, French parliamentarian Valérie Pouilly called for the withdrawal of French citizenship from the international football player of Algerian origins, Karim Benzema, after he expressed his sympathy for the residents of the Palestinian city of Gaza, which has been subjected to continuous Israeli bombing for 80 days, claiming the lives of 25 thousand Palestinians, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza.

The Interregional Center for Strategic Analyzes notes that many opinions are surprised by the French measures towards citizens who wish to declare their support for Palestine, including Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin’s decision to ban “pro-Palestinian demonstrations,” given that this is considered a type of restriction of freedom of expression in the country. The country of Voltaire, to whom this quote is attributed: “I do not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death that you have the right to say it.”

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