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Algerian footballer Atal on trial in France over Gaza post

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Algerian international footballer Youcef Atal goes on trial in France Monday accused of inciting hatred after posting a video in which a Palestinian preacher purportedly threatens Israel with a “black day”. Atal, who plays for Ligue 1 side Nice, shared the video on his Instagram account, which has 3.2 million followers, shortly after the attack by Hamas militants on Israel on October 7 in which 1,139 people were killed.

In an extract of the footage seen by AFP, the preacher, Mahmoud Al Hasanat, at first talked about the plight of children in Gaza. Prosecutors said they also identified another extract in which he called on God to “send the Jews a black day”, and “steady the hands” of Gaza inhabitants if they should “throw stones”. The 27 year old defender, who quickly deleted the post and issued an apology, was suspended by the club while prosecutors probed the incident for suspected “justification of terrorism”.

But they dropped that line of investigation after watching the video and questioning the player, instead charging him with “incitement to religious hatred”. Two associations, the International League against Racism and anti-Semitism (Licra) and the Jewish Observatory of France, have brought civil actions against the player. If found guilty, Atal could be sentenced to up to one year in prison and fined 45,000 euros ($49,000).

He has been under judicial supervision with a ban on travelling abroad except to play professional football. His club quickly suspended him “until further notice” after the post, while the professional football league banned him for seven matches. Some of Atal’s Algerian team mates argued for leniency, saying he had apologised and not actually watched the video until the end before posting it.

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