Fouad Mourtada is free

The Moroccan who was jailed for putting up a fake profile of Prince Moulay Rashid has been freed. This is great news, and while it should have never gotten to this, better late than never. I suppose the king wanted to make sure the message got across that the royal family is a no-go area for satirists and critics.



CASABLANCA, March 18 - Fouad Mourtada was released from Oukacha Prison at approximately 8:00pm local time today, having received a royal pardon.Mr. Mourtada, a 26-year old IT engineer, was taken into custody on February 5th, 2008, and was questioned regarding a fake Facebook profile of King Mohammed VI’s younger brother, Prince Moulay Rachid, which he had created on January 15. During his interrogation, Mr. Mourtada reports that he was beaten, spat on and insulted.On February 22, Mr. Mourtada was sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of $1350 for creating the fake profile. The official charge was identity fraud of an electronic document.Following Mr. Mourtada’s detention, an international online movement arose calling for his release and, following sentencing, for a full pardon. On Saturday, March 1, young activists used a Facebook group to organize worldwide protests opposing Mr. Mourtada’s imprisonment, which occurred in Rabat, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Washington DC, Montreal, Madrid, and London. A video of the protests was later posted on YouTube.Mentions by international news organizations, such as the BBC, encouraged Moroccan domestic media to take up the story, which increase pressure on the government to act.Tonight Mr. Mourtada is staying at the house of friend in Casablanca. He will retain to his family tomorrow.



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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.