PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas
PA chairman Mahmoud AbbasAFP photo

A Palestinian Authority court on Thursday sentenced a man to a year in prison for "insulting" Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Facebook, AFP reported.

The Shechem court sent Anas Said Awad, 26, from the nearby village of Awarta, to jail over a caption he posted next to a picture of Abbas kicking a football saying "a new striker for Real Madrid," Awad’s father told AFP.

"What my son wrote was not insulting to the president," Said Awad told the news agency, adding that his son was a Real Madrid supporter. "It was part of comments exchanged among young people. He did not commit any crime."

He said Anas had in the past been arrested several times by PA security forces for membership in the Hamas terror group which rules Gaza.

The father said that the judge handed down the sentence without calling Anas into the courtroom, even though he was waiting elsewhere in the building.

"I do not think there was anything insulting in this photo and I do not think it is the reason for this ruling," he said, adding that Anas had been detained for two months in 2011 and interrogated on security issues linked to Hamas.

His lawyer, Rima al-Sayed, told AFP that her client had been "convicted in absentia" and that she would appeal.

In 2010 a young PA Arab blogger in Qalqiliya was arrested for writing "blasphemy against the Prophet (Mohammed) and the Koran" and put into protective custody by the Palestinian security service, reported AFP.

Last year, the PA instructed internet providers to block access to news websites that criticize Abbas.

After the censorship caused a controversy, Abbas ordered to reverse the censoring order. His Minister of Communications had announced his resignation following the PA’s censorship of the websites.

Prison sentences for insulting leaders on the internet are a common occurrence in some Muslim countries. This week, a Kuwaiti court sentenced a man to five years in prison for insulting the emir on Twitter.