Algerian footballer Youcef Atal convicted for inciting religious hatred after October 7 social media post

The international footballer was given a suspended sentence and fine for sharing controversial post of Palestinian preacher in days after massacre


Nice's Algerian defender Youcef Atal arrives at Nice courthouse, southern France, for his trial for incitement to hatred, on December 18, 2023. He was handed a suspended sentence on 3 January. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP) (Photo by VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images)

Algerian international footballer Youcef Atal has been handed an eight-month suspended sentence by a French court for inciting religious hatred in a social media post after the October 7 massacre in Israel

Atal, who plays for Ligue 1 side Nice, was sentenced by the city’s criminal court on Wednesday.

In addition to his suspended sentence, the court ruled that Atal must also pay a fine of 45,000 euros (£38,920) for sharing a video in which a Palestinian preacher allegedly threatened Jews in Israel with a "black day.”

In the video, Mahmoud Al Hasanat calls on Allah to “send a black day for the Jews” and “guide the hands” of Gazans seeking to “throw stones” in retribution.

Atal shared the video on Instagram, where he has 3.2 million followers, five days after Hamas' October 7 attack on a music festival and kibbutzim in southern Israel.

He took the post down the following day and apologised in an Instagram story, saying: “I want to clarify my point of view without any ambiguity: I strongly denounce all forms of violence, wherever in the world, and I support all victims.”

The 27-year-old defender apologised again during the court hearings, insisting that he had wanted to send a "message of peace". Atal also admitted that he did not watch the entire 35-second video before sharing it on his Instagram account.

But prosecutors and plaintiffs, namely Jewish organisations and the Professional Football League (LFP), were not swayed by this justification.

"Sharing a video means being party to its message and lending it visibility,” prosecutor Meggi Choutia said in court. "There is no talk of peace at any moment in these 35 seconds.”

Atal has been suspended by the Nice football club “until further notice”, and he received a seven-match ban – which has since expired - from the LFP.

However, the defender has received support in his home country, appearing for Algeria’s national football team three times, and is set to be included in their squad for the Africa Cup of Nations tournament this month.

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