French police arrest Nice defender Youcef Atal over suspected 'justification of terrorism' after he was banned for seven games for sharing anti-Semitic Instagram post

French police have arrested Nice defender Youcef Atal as part of an investigation into 'justification of terrorism' after he shared an allegedly anti-Semitic post on Instagram. 

He was banned for seven games after sharing a video of Palestinian preacher Mahmoud al-Hasanat amid the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

In the video, al-Hasanat purportedly calls for God to 'send Jewish people a dark day'.

The Algerian international quickly removed the post and apologised for it

However, the mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, flagged the post to the authorities and argued should not have a future at his current club unless he 'denounces Hamas terrorists'.

His arrest means police can now question him and either charge him or release him with no further immediate action once his detention period expires.

In his apology, Atal said: 'I am aware that my post shocked many people, which wasn't my intention, and I apologise

'I want to clarify my point of view without any ambiguity: I strongly denounce all forms of violence, wherever in the world, and I support all victims.

'I would never support a message of hate. Peace is an ideal in which I strongly believe.' 

Nice's public prosecutor’s office announced earlier in the month that Atal was under a preliminary investigation on charges 'defending terrorism'.

Atal is also being investigated for 'public incitement to hatred or violence because of a particular religion.'

French Football Federation (FFF) President Philippe Diallo has also criticised Atal's posts, with the organisation launching its own investigation into the Algerian international.

'The calls for violence relayed by OGC Nice player Youcef Atal are contrary to the ethics of our sport and the values that football tirelessly defends,' Diallo said.

'The FFF condemns them with the most extreme firmness. Hate speech cannot be allowed.

'It is with good reason that the National Ethics Council of the FFF took up this matter.'

Nice have also suspended the 27-year-old and spoke to him after he returned from international duty with Algeria. 

'OGC Nice understands that the player recognised his error by quickly withdrawing the sharing of the publication and presented his written and public apologies,' a club statement read.

'However, given the nature of the shared publication and its seriousness, the club took the decision to immediately take the first disciplinary sanctions against the player, prior to those that could be decided by the sporting and judicial authorities.

'As such, the club has decided to suspend Youcef Atal until further notice.

'We would like to emphasise that the reputation and unity of OGC Nice result from the behaviour of all of its employees who must be in accordance with the values defended by the institution.

'As in its message last Friday, where OGC Nice recalled its firm commitment so that peace prevails over all other considerations.'

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