A French court has sentenced a high school student to three years in jail for repeatedly tweeting his support for the Islamic State (IS). In the last six months, the 18-year-old posted up to 70 pages of tweets endorsing IS and praising the November 13 terror attacks that killed 130 people in and around Paris — including 90 at the Bataclan concert hall.
Just days after the attacks, as social media users took to Twitter to share #MonPlusBeauSouvenirDuBataclan (my favorite memory from the Bataclan), the student tweeted an image of the besieged concert hall captioned, "My favorite memory from the Bataclan, laughing so hard."
Other provocative Tweets include "Shooting in Paname, LMFAO" and "Paris mobilized against IS, lol, there's nothing they can do." (Paname is a nickname for Paris.)
The student is also accused of using the platform in May to make death threats against Hassen Chalghoumi, the imam of Drancy mosque, in Seine-Saint-Denis, to the northeast of Paris. He is known for his moderate positions and his closeness to the French Jewish community.
The student's attorney has described his client as "a normal kid," noting that the authorities chose not to intervene between May and November because the boy "presented no danger."
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Meanwhile, the student has defended himself of any dangerous intent, saying he had created "a persona" and was simply "addicted to Twitter." The account, he said, was nothing more than a joke. "If it was a joke, then it was a joke that lasted a long time," the public prosecutor of Caen, in northwestern France, said.
The student — who comes from Hérouville-Saint-Clair, a suburb of Caen — has been detained since November 20 on charges of "religiously-motivated death threats and publicly glorifying an act of terror."
Speaking to local French daily Ouest France in November, the boy's aunt described her nephew as "very kind." The family, she added, did not understand what his motives were. The boy's mother told the same newspaper that her son was frequently "online, on his tablet," but that the family had no idea what he had been up to.
The boy's aunt also told local radio station Bleu Basse-Normandie that the family was "shocked" to find out about his activities on social media. "They are very, very harsh words. But let's not forget he's young," she said, adding, "These are just words without afterthought.… He's someone who likes to provoke but that's all."
One week after the Charlie Hebdo shooting and the January terror attacks that left 17 people dead in and around the French capital, France's justice minister announced that 54 people had been investigated for glorifying terrorism.
The youngest was a 14-year-old girl from Nantes, who was placed under investigation after shouting, "We are the Coulibaly sisters, we're going to get our Kalashnikovs out" to ticket inspectors on a tram.
Just a few days after the November terror attacks, a 23-year-old man in Marseille was sentenced to a year in jail for shouting, "Allah Akbar" at a group of police officers and making a throat-slitting gesture.
Glorifying terrorism in France carries a maximum sentence of five years. The court has ordered the student to serve at least two years of his prison sentence.
Watch VICE News' documentary "The Islamic State."