from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

Is Insulting the President a Crime: Ramallah This Time

February 8, 2013

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On January 23, I did a blog post here noting that in his short time in power Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi had 24 times had people jailed for the "crime" of "insulting the president." My comment then was that "This is a striking example of the way in which Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are ruling Egypt, and should give pause to those who believe the Brotherhood can be won over to a belief in democracy and respect for human rights."

Now comes a new case, this time in the Palestinian Authority. Ma’an News Agency reports that "A Palestinian court has sentenced a man from the Nablus area to a year in prison for insulting President Mahmoud Abbas on Facebook, officials said Thursday. The Nablus magistrates court sentenced Anas Saad Awwad, 26, of Awarta village, in absentia to a year in prison after convicting him on charges of criticizing the government, an official said."

What was the terrible insult? "Awwad’s lawyer, Rima al-Sayyed, said her client has been accused of photo-shopping of Abbas wearing a Real Madrid shirt with the caption: ’A new striker.’"

Awwad’s father noted that his son had merely posted something on Facebook and said "I ask the president to intervene personally to cancel the court’s decision."

Now that is good advice. He might have noted that Real Madrid is one of the richest and best football teams in the world, so one has to wonder why this is a criminal insult anyway. Real Madrid has a far better record in its particular field of play than the Palestinian Authority does in its own. Abbas should buy the young man lunch--and end entirely the pernicious and repressive practice of jailing anyone, ever for the so-called "crime" of insulting the president.

More on:

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