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Algeria’s int’l footballer Youcef Atal convicted over Gaza post

3 January 2024

Algerian international footballer Youcef Atal was handed an eight-month suspended sentence by a French court on Wednesday for ‘inciting religious hatred’ in a social media post about the conflict in Gaza, reports AFP.

The 27-year-old defender, who plays for Ligue 1 side Nice, must also pay a fine of 45,000 euros ($49,000) for sharing a video calling for a “black day for the Jews”, the Nice criminal court ruled.

He will further pay for details of his conviction to be published in regional daily Nice-Matin and national newspaper Le Monde.

The comments at issue came in a video of a preacher, Mahmoud Al Hasanat, which Atal posted to his 3.2-million-follower Instagram account five days after Hamas’ October 7 assault on Israel.

Israel in response launched a campaign against the Palestinian resistance group which has cost over 22,300 lives according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

After speaking about the children killed in the bombardments, Al Hasanat called on God to send a “black day for the Jews” and “guide the hand” of Gazans striking back.

Atal was with the Algerian national team in his home country when he shared the video. He withdrew it the following day when Nice warned him it was likely to attract controversy, offering his apologies.

Atal had apologised again to the court during the hearings, saying he had wanted to send a “message of peace” and did not watch the entire 35-second video before posting it.

That argument did not convince prosecutors or plaintiffs, mostly Jewish organisations and the Professional Football League (LFP).

“Sharing a video means being party to its message and lending it visibility,” prosecutor Meggi Choutia told the court.

“There is no talk of peace at any moment in these 35 seconds,” she added.

Nice have suspended Atal from playing “until further notice”, while he received a seven-match ban – since expired – from the LFP.

He has however appeared for Algeria’s Fennecs three times, he is in their squad for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations tournament, and received support in his home country.

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