(Nice) Youcef Atal, Algerian international footballer for OGC Nice, was sentenced Wednesday to eight months in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros by the French justice system, for having shared a video calling for “a black day on the Jews”, against a backdrop of conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Prosecuted for provoking hatred on grounds of religion, he will also have to publish this conviction at his own expense in the regional daily Nice-Matin and in the newspaper Le Monde, said the criminal court of Nice, in the south-east of the city. France.
This judgment is in line with the requisitions. During the trial on December 18, the prosecution requested ten months suspended prison sentence, a 45,000 euro fine and the publication of the sentence for one month on the home page of the Aiglons defender’s Instagram account, which exceeds the 3.2 million subscribers.
Summoned to the Fennecs national team for the African Cup of Nations (CAN) which begins next week in Ivory Coast, the 27-year-old was absent during the deliberations, like his lawyer.
Five days after the unprecedented attacks by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas against Israel on October 7 and the start of Israel’s bombing of Gaza, Atal shared a video of a preacher, Mahmoud Al Hasanat, on Instagram.
The latter first spoke, moved to tears, of the fate of the children of Gaza under the bombs. Then he toughened his tone and called on God to send “a dark day on the Jews” and to “walk the hand” of the people of Gaza if they “throw the stone.”
Atal was in Algeria, with the national team, when he shared this video. Warned by OGC Nice of the controversial nature of the comments, he withdrew it the next day, with a message of apology.
In court, the player apologized again, repeating over and over that he had wanted to send “a message of peace” and that he had not watched the video to the end before sharing it.
Since the video only lasts 35 seconds, the argument convinced neither the deputy prosecutor, Meggi Choutia, nor the civil parties, mainly Jewish organizations and the Professional Football League (LFP).
“These are serious facts, which must not be trivialized. Sharing a video means taking credit for the comments and giving them visibility,” Ms. Choutia declared in her indictment: “At no time, during these 35 seconds, is there any question of peace.”
But for his lawyer, Me Antoine Vey, “he sent a message of support to the Palestinians in Gaza. For him this is peace, and he is not the only one.”
Youcef Atal, who has played for Ligue 1 club Nice since 2018, has not reappeared in the Aiglons jersey since this publication, first suspended “until further notice” by his club, then for seven matches by the LFP disciplinary committee, a sanction now served.
A fast and offensive right-back, he has on the other hand started in the three matches played by Algeria since the publication of the video and has received a lot of support in his country.
“I’m not anti-Semitic. I am neither against Jews nor against Christians, I have no hatred against anyone,” he insisted at the audience, recalling that unlike many athletes in the Arab world, he did not hesitate to playing in Tel Aviv with Nice in the summer of 2022 in the European Cup.