Moroccan gets 3 years for anti-king video

February 14, 2012 - 3:55 PM

RABAT, Morocco (AP) — A Moroccan court has convicted a student of "violating the sacred values" of the kingdom and sentenced him to three years in prison after a video posted online showed him criticizing the king, the state news agency reported Tuesday.

Abdelsamad Haydour, from Taza, a mountain town 187 miles (300 kilometers) east of the capital that has been a hot spot for violent protests, accused King Mohammed VI of oppressing his people in the 4-minute clip, and also called the monarch a dog, a dictator and a murder.

The monarchy has tolerated widespread protests over the last year, but the latest incident shows that there are still limits to the kind of criticisms permitted.

The video, available on YouTube.com, showed the 24-year-old talking with a friend outside on the street, surrounded by a group of young people. At one point, Haydour points to the camera while making his statements.

"For years they have just been educating us to be consumers and buy the products of the colonizers and their representatives in Rabat," the Moroccan capital, said Haydour, who also was fined $1,250.

Morocco's king once was constitutionally considered sacred but under amendments passed in 2011 in response to pro-democracy protests, the wording has been toned down: His person is now described as "inviolable and respect is due him."

On Feb. 7, another young Moroccan also was charged with attacking "sacred values" when he posted on Facebook mocking cartoons of the king. His trial is pending.

Taza has been torn by violent clashes between security forces and youths protesting unemployment since Feb. 1, when demonstrators attacked government buildings and burned tires.

Most Moroccan cities witness regular demonstrations by groups of unemployed youths, often university graduates, but in Taza the marches turned into days of battles with riot police.

After the riots, police went house to house and arrested dozens of people on charges of destroying public property and vandalism.

On Tuesday, 17 men in Taza were convicted of vandalism and sentenced to up to 10 months in prison.

While Morocco's economy has been growing steadily at around 4 percent annually for the past several years, the growth has not been able to provide enough employment to the millions of young people entering the workforce every year.

Unemployment is officially 9 percent and rises to at least 30 percent for those under 34 years of age.

Last month, several Moroccans set themselves on fire during protests over unemployment, including one man who died from his burns.