RABAT, Morocco – A Moroccan youth given a suspended prison sentence for scribbling that he preferred a soccer club to his king said Thursday he fears the ruling could jeopardize his professional future.
An appeals court on Wednesday upheld Yassine Belassal's conviction and one-year suspended sentence for "disrespect to the kingdom's national motto," authorities said.
The 18-year-old karate champion had written "God, Homeland and Barca" on a classroom chalkboard, referring to his favorite soccer club FC Barcelona in Spain.
Morocco's motto is "God, Homeland and the King." Defaming King Mohammed VI or the royal family is punishable by up to five years in prison in the North African nation.
Police detained Belassal in October after a teacher reported finding him scrawling the phrase on a blackboard.
Belassal had pleaded guilty to the charge, and said Thursday he was happy to have avoided jail time in the sentencing.
"But I'm worried for my professional future and for my sports career," Belassal told The Associated Press. "I fear that the national [karate] team won't want me now because of this judgment."
His lawyer, Mustapha Errachidi, said the accusations against his client were murky and the judgment unfair.
Morocco's Human Rights League also criticized the conviction. Its president, Abdelhamid Amine, said the organization believes "he never committed any crime."