Last Updated: Mon Nov 01, 2010 20:14 pm (KSA) 17:14 pm (GMT)

Moroccan jailed for 3 yrs over Facebook “gag”

A Moroccan court sentenced a computer engineer to three years in prison late on Friday for setting up a Facebook account in the name of King Mohammed's brother.

Despite an appeal to Prince Moulay Rachid for clemency, the court found 26-year-old Fouad Mortada guilty of falsifying data and imitating the prince without his consent. It also fined him 10,000 dirhams ($1,304), Mortada's lawyer Ali Ammar said.

"The importance of the personality at the heart of this affair clearly influenced how the case was handled," said Ammar.

Mortada said he set up the account on the social networking site in mid-January out of admiration for the 37-year-old prince, who is second in line to the throne.

"It was just a joke, a gag," Fouad was quoted as saying on a website set up by his supporters. "I regret my gesture and beg forgiveness from my whole family for the harm that I have caused them."

He added that he was arrested on Feb. 5, blindfolded and taken to an unknown building where he was beaten and insulted, according to the website.

His supporters said the police wanted to establish if there was a relationship between Fouad and terrorist groups seeking to harm the royal family but found no such link. A source close to the Moroccan security services denied Mortada was tortured.

Mortada's brother Ilyas said the family would appeal the sentence.

Ilyas Mortada added that thousands of people had set up accounts on Facebook and other sites in the names of celebrities.

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