France Hands Algerian Footballer Youcef Atal Suspended Prison Sentence over Post on Gaza War

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The Nice criminal court said on Wednesday that a video Atal reposted on social media in October provoked hatred on the grounds of religion.

A French court on Wednesday handed Algerian international football player Youcef Atal an eight-month suspended prison sentence for inciting religious hatred in a post he shared on social media about the war in Gaza.

The Nice criminal court ordered Atal, who plays for the Ligue 1 side Nice, to pay a fine of 45,000 euros ($49,000) for sharing a video calling for a “black day for the Jews”.

The 27-year-old defender will also pay for details of his conviction to be published in regional daily Nice-Matin and national newspaper Le Monde.

The comments at issue were contained in a video of a preacher, Mahmoud Al Hasanat, which Atal posted to his 3.2 million Instagram followers five days after Hamas’ bloody October 7 assault on southern Israeli communities.

After speaking about the children Israel was killing in its retaliatory attacks on Gaza, al-Hasanat reportedly made an anti-Jewish remark and called on God to ssend a “black day for the Jews” and “guide the hand” of Gazans striking back.

In the three months of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza following Hamas’ October 7 attacks, more than 22,000 Palestinians in the enclave have been killed, mostly women and children, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.

When Atal shared the video, he was with the Algerian national team in his home country. He withdrew it the following day when Nice warned him that it was likely to attract controversy.

The footballer also apologised, saying he would “never support a message of hate” and that he condemns violence “no matter where in the world”.

During his court hearing in December, Atal offered his apologies again, saying he had wanted to send a “message of peace” and did not watch the entire 35-second video before posting it.

That argument did not convince prosecutors or plaintiffs, mostly Jewish organisations and the Professional Football League (LFP).

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

Nice has suspended Atal from playing “until further notice”, while he received a seven-match ban – which has since expired – from the LFP.

Atal was also previously detained by French authorities in November due to the post and was released on bail of 80,000 euros ($87,500) and placed under judicial supervision until the trial.

The Nice player has, however, appeared for Algeria’s Fennecs three times, he is in their squad for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations tournament, and received support in his home country.