‘The Fake Prince of Facebook’

I have an opinion piece up at The Nation website about the imprisonment of Fouad Mourtada in Casablanca two weeks ago. Here is how it begins:

On the morning of February 5, plainclothes officers in Morocco picked up Fouad Mourtada in Casablanca, blindfolded him, and took him to the police station, where they reportedly tortured him until he lost consciousness. His crime: He had created a Facebook profile of Crown Prince Moulay Rachid, the King’s brother.

Mourtada is 26. He did what millions of other people his age do every day–create profiles, real or fake, on social networking websites. There are fake profiles on Facebook for everyone from Brad Pitt to Mother Teresa, from King Abdullah to Osama bin Laden. There are 500 profiles for George W. Bush. Mourtada did not appear to think he was committing any crime. Indeed, despite being a computer engineer, with a degree from the prestigious École Mohammedia des Ingénieurs, he did not use a proxy server to protect his identity. Nor did he derive any profit, monetary or otherwise, from the Facebook profile. It may have been a youthful prank or a twenty-first-century homage, but either way it landed him in jail.

You can read the entire piece over at The Nation. The court is due to reconvene today, and I can only hope that cooler heads will prevail.

Updated to say that Fouad Mourtada has been sentenced to three years in prison.