POLICE in Morocco have arrested a teenage couple for posting a photograph of themselves kissing on Facebook – provoking scores of copycat posts.
The couple, aged 14 and 15, had their picture taken by a friend in the town of Nador – to the north-east of the country.
The photograph, taken of the boy and the girl outside their school, was then posted on Facebook by the pair. They were arrested after a local newspaper reprinted the image. They are currently being held at a juvenile detention centre for violating public decency and are due to appear in juvenile court next week. A sit-in has begun outside the centre calling for their release.
Human rights organisations said the incident has provoked scores of “copycat” posts – with a campaign to reach a million such posts launched in protest.
Chakib al-Khayari, president of the Rif Association of Human Rights, said: “[The incident] involves a teenage boy and his girlfriend. They were arrested on Thursday for violating public decency by posting a photo of them kissing.”
A local official has confirmed the arrests, but declined to comment.
In Moroccan criminal law, sexual relations outside marriage are heavily penalised, with one-month to one-year sentences for such an act.
Rape, meanwhile, is regarded as indecent assault or public indecency, not as a crime against the person. In some cases, the courts have treated rape committed against under-age girls as corruption of a minor or as sexual relations outside marriage.
Many Middle Eastern countries frown on kissing in public as violating public decency. In 2010, a British man and woman lost their appeal against a one-month prison term for kissing in public in Dubai.
Ayman Najafi, 24, and Charlotte Adams, 25, were handed the sentence after they were seen kissing on the mouth in a restaurant, breaching Dubai’s strict decency laws.
They were also fined 1,000 dirhams (£179) and ordered to be deported once they have served their prison sentence.
The pair were also accused of consuming alcohol – a charge to which they pleaded guilty – but said they only kissed on the cheek.
Najafi and Adams were arrested by police in November 2009 and the judge heard evidence from a 38-year-old mother who had witnessed the incident. She said she was offended by the pair’s behaviour at the Jumeirah Beach Residence, where she was dining with her daughter.
Najafi has been working for marketing firm Hay Group in Dubai for about 18 months while Adams was a tourist.
In a similar case, an Indian couple were sentenced to three months in jail in Dubai for exchanging steamy text messages.
In 2008, two Britons accused of having sex on the beach got three months in jail, though their sentences were later suspended.