French media reported Friday that an 18-year-old man from Dijon was convicted for “praising terrorism” and was given a suspended sentence of three months in prison because the SSID of his Wi-Fi network was “Daesh 21.”
Daesh is the Arabic acronym for Islamic State, and “21” in this context represents the number for the Côte d’Or, the French department, or province, where Dijon is located.
The unnamed man was prosecuted under a new French anti-terrorism law (Article 421-2-5) passed in November 2014 that makes it a crime to “directly provoke acts of terrorism or to publicly praise one such act.” If convicted, offenders can be punished by up to five years in prison and a €75,000 ($83,000) fine.
Such penalties are raised to seven years and €100,000 ($111,000) if the crime was committed by using a “public online communication service.”
A local newspaper, Le Bien public, described the man as being “totally dazed” in front of the court and said that he was “not a terrorist.” He was first sentenced to 100 hours of community service, which he refused, but he was finally given a three-month suspended sentence.
The man’s lawyer, Karima Manhouli, who did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment, said that one of the man’s neighbors reported him to police.
“The authorities went to the street to evaluate the signal, made numerous inquiries, in vain, with Samsung, and then to the operator, etc., to eventually be able to identify this young man,” she told Next Inpact.
“He’s an 18-year-old who has not even been able to explain the name. I don’t think that renaming a Wi-Fi network is an act of praise! It’s neutral, it’s nonsense, it’s not an argument.”
She added that the man’s computer, phone, Twitter, and Instagram were seized and searched. Nothing else terrorist-related was found.
His Wi-Fi network has been subsequently re-named “Roudoudou 21,” the name of a French electronic musician.
The case could be further appealed in France or in European courts.
“The question is whether it is in accordance with French law,” Marie Fernet, a French lawyer, told Ars.
“And if this law is itself consistent with the fundamental principles protected by the Constitution, the Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. This legislation regarding the praise of terrorism is recent, and many people think it is not consistent with our texts on human rights and freedom of expression.”