A French court has given Algerian footballer Youcef Atal an eight-month suspended prison sentence for sharing a video on social media related to Israel’s war on Gaza. The video, posted to Atal’s Instagram account, featured preacher Mahmoud al-Hasanat discussing the conflict. The Nice criminal court ruled that the post incited hatred on religious grounds and imposed a fine of 45,000 euros. Atal, who plays for Ligue 1 team Nice, promptly deleted the video and apologised, but the court found him liable for the content’s message and visibility.
The controversial video, shared five days after the start of Israel’s war on Gaza, depicted al-Hasanat addressing the violence and reportedly making an anti-Jewish remark while urging divine guidance for Palestinians in Gaza.
In the three months of Israel’s war on Gaza, more than 22,000 Palestinians have been killed, mostly women and children.
Atal, part of the Algerian national team at the time, withdrew the post the next day after being warned by Nice about potential controversy. Despite offering apologies and expressing a commitment to peace, the 27-year-old’s explanations did not sway prosecutors or plaintiffs during his December court hearing.
As a result of the conviction, Atal faces additional consequences, including a requirement to pay for publishing the details of the case in the regional daily Nice-Matin and the national newspaper Le Monde. He was suspended from playing by Nice “until further notice” and received a seven-match ban from the Professional Football League. The footballer, who has represented Algeria three times, received support back home and is set to participate in the Africa Cup of Nations, He had been detained by French authorities in November and released on bail before the trial.