Youcef Atal, OGC Nice footballer, sentenced to eight months in prison for provoking hatred

Youcef Atal, Algerian international for OGC Nice, was sentenced to eight months in prison on Wednesday January 3, for sharing a video calling for “a black day on the Jews”, against the backdrop of the conflict between Israel and Hamas

Youcef Atal, OGC Nice footballer, sentenced to eight months in prison for provoking hatred

Youcef Atal, Algerian international for OGC Nice, was sentenced to eight months in prison on Wednesday January 3, for sharing a video calling for “a black day on the Jews”, against the backdrop of the conflict between Israel and Hamas .

Prosecuted for provoking hatred on grounds of religion, he will also have to pay a fine of 45,000 euros, and publish this conviction at his own expense in the regional daily Nice-Matin and in the newspaper Le Monde, said the Nice criminal court in its judgment.

This judgment is in line with the requisitions. During the trial, on December 18, the prosecution requested ten months suspended prison sentence, a 45,000 euro fine and the publication of the conviction for one month on the home page of the Instagram account of the Aiglons defender, followed by 3.2 million subscribers. Summoned to the “Fennecs” national team for the African Cup of Nations (CAN), which begins next week in Ivory Coast, the 27-year-old was absent during the deliberations, like his lawyer .

Five days after the unprecedented attacks by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas against Israel on October 7 and the start of Israel's bombing of Gaza, Youcef Atal shared on Instagram the video of a preacher, Mahmoud Al-Hasanat. The latter first spoke, moved to tears, of the fate of the children of Gaza under the bombs. Then he toughened his tone and called on God to “send a dark day on the Jews” and to “accompany the hand” of the inhabitants of Gaza if they “throw the stone.”

Mr. Atal was in Algeria, with the national team, when he shared this video. Warned by OGC Nice of the controversial nature of the comments, he withdrew it the next day, with a message of apology. In court, the player apologized again, repeating over and over that he had wanted to send “a message of peace” and that he had not watched the video to the end before sharing it.

“At no time during these thirty-five seconds is there any question of peace”

Since the video only lasts thirty-five seconds, the argument convinced neither the deputy prosecutor, Meggie Choutia, nor the civil parties, mainly Jewish organizations and the Professional Football League (LFP). “These are serious facts, which must not be trivialized. Sharing a video means taking credit for the comments and giving them visibility,” declared Ms. Choutia in her indictment: “At no time, during these thirty-five seconds, is there any question of peace. » But for his lawyer, Antoine Vey, “he sent a message of support to the Palestinians in Gaza. For him this is peace, and he is not the only one.”

Youcef Atal, who has played for Ligue 1 club Nice since 2018, has not reappeared in the Aiglons jersey since this publication, suspended first “until further notice” by his club, then for seven matches by the LFP disciplinary committee, a sanction now served.

A fast and offensive right-back, he has on the other hand started in the three matches played by Algeria since the publication of the video, and has received a lot of support in his country. “I’m not anti-Semitic. I am neither against Jews nor against Christians, I have no hatred against anyone,” he insisted at the audience, recalling that unlike many athletes in the Arab world, he did not hesitate to playing in Tel Aviv with Nice, in the summer of 2022 in the European Cup.