The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Free Fouad Mourtada

The arrest and brutal treatment of Fouad Mourtada, the young man who create a fake Facebook profile of Morocco's Prince Moulay Rachid, is a sad testimony to the fact that things have not changed as much as the regime would like you to believe in Morocco. Here is the statement his supporters have put out:

Official statement of the Committee of Support for Fouad Mourtada, after a first visit at Oukacha jail.

One week after his disappearance and imprisonment by the Moroccan police force Tuesday February 05, it was finally possible for the family of Fouad to visit him this Tuesday February 12 afternoon at Oukacha jail in Casablanca, Morocco.

Fouad, distraught after one week of detention, stated the following facts:

"I was arrested on the morning of Tuesday by two individuals who embarked me on a vehicle then blindfolded my eyes with a black band. After about fifteen minutes, they changed vehicle, then took me along to some building to undergo an interrogation there. There I was persecuted, beaten up, slapped, spat on and insulted. I was also slammed for hours with a tool on the head and the legs. This calvary lasted such a long time that I lost consciousness several times and also lost the notion of time. I was completely surprised to learn, when I was taken again to another location, that it was Wednesday ".

Concerning the Facebook account, incriminated Fouad indicated:

"I actually created this account on January 15, 2008. It remained on line a few days before somebody closed it. There are so many profiles of celebrities on Facebook. I never thought that by creating a profile of his highness prince Moulay Rachid I am harming him in any way. I, as a matter of fact, did not send any message from that account to anyone. It was just a joke, a gag. I regret my gesture and beg my forgiveness from my whole family for the harm that I have caused them. I am not an evil doer; my ambition in the life was simply to have a stable job and a normal life ".

Fouad Mourtada awaits the starting of his trial, Friday February 15. He could be facing 5 years of prison, to have done what thousands of people throughout the world do everyday: create a profile of a celebrity or a star on Facebook.

For analysis on Morocco's monarchy-controlled "democratization process" see this analysis from the Middle East Institute, which concludes:

Morocco’s road towards greater democratization remains a project in the making. On the one hand, the climate of greater freedom of speech and accountability on the part of officials is unmistakable, as is the sobering recognition of the enormity of the task ahead. On the other hand, the lingering notion that any reform, constitutional or otherwise, derives from and depends upon the good will of the monarch is a hin- drance to any profound changes to the current system. As he nears his first decade on the throne, Muhammad VI faces the challenge of stirring his nation towards a better future while maintaining the stability and relative tranquility that have made Morocco the envy of other Middle Eastern and North African countries.

A good first step would be that the king ensures that identity theft, if Mourtada's prank can be described as such, be handled professionally by ordinary police rather than secret service thugs whose beatings are reminiscent of the torture and disappearances of the late King Hassan II's reign. Even though Mourtada may get off without a jail sentence due to the bad publicity this brings the monarchy, that is not enough: an apology and the disciplining of those responsible for his treatment should ensue.