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Man faces year in jail after Abbas Facebook joke

Feb. 7, 2013 6:48 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 8, 2013 5:11 P.M.)
NABLUS (Ma’an) -- A Palestinian court has sentenced a man from the Nablus area to a year in prison for insulting President Mahmoud Abbas on Facebook, officials said Thursday.

The Nablus magistrates court sentenced Anas Saad Awwad, 26, of Awarta village, in absentia to a year in prison after convicting him on charges of criticizing the government, an official said.

Khalil Assaf, the director of the public freedoms committee within an unimplemented unity deal, called the sentence itself an insult to the president, not the supposed crime of criticizing him.

Assaf called on the court to reverse the ruling.

The defendant had been detained previously on similar charges, but was released after paying a fine, according to his father.

"My son only commented on Facebook. You know how young people comment," he said. "He didn't mean to insult the president. I ask the president to intervene personally to cancel the court's decision."

Awwad's lawyer, Rima al-Sayyed, said her client has been accused of photo-shopping of Abbas wearing a Real Madrid shirt with the caption: "A new striker."

She declined to comment on the sentence, saying it was not final.

Last year Palestinian security forces jailed at least three people accused in separate incidents of criticizing the government on social networking websites.
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