A Moroccan activist has been sentenced to two years in prison for "insulting the national flag and the symbol of the state" in a Facebook post, his lawyer said Friday.
The sentenced was handed down late Thursday in the central Moroccan city of Khenifra, at the end of a hearing lasting around 10 hours, lawyer Hassan El Tas told AFP.
Abdelali Bahmad, 35, was arrested in mid-December and charged over an October Facebook post in which he said he @could not afford to buy the matches to burn the Moroccan flag as he needed to eat", according to the charge sheet seen by AFP.
Bahmad, who was unemployed, was known for his support on Facebook for the Hirak protest movement that rocked northern Morocco in 2016 and 2017, according to relatives.
On Thursday, a group of Moroccan human rights defenders condemned "a campaign of repression" aimed at "terrorising social media users".
It listed a dozen convictions in the past two months for posts on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter that "disagree with the state, criticise its polices or express anger".
The group was created at the end of December following the arrest of Omar Radi, a journalist and human rights activist charged with "insulting magistrates" in a tweet. His trial is set for early March.
A campaign using the hashtag #freekoulchi (free them all) was recently launched on Twitter to denounce the wave of convictions.
Asked about the prosecutions, government spokesman Hassan Abyaba insisted "the human rights situation in Morocco is not regressing".
He said there was a distinction between "those who express themselves freely and those who commit crimes punishable by law".