Footballer El Ghazi contests sacking for pro-Palestine slogan

El Ghazi (no. 34) on the ball for Mainz against Borussia Mönchengladbach. Photo: Imago/Horst Mauelshagen via ANP

Former Ajax and PSV footballer Anwar El Ghazi is taking legal action against German club Mainz after he was fired over two social media posts in support of Palestine.

The 28-year-old was initially given a warning for posting a message on Instagram with the slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, which was recently classed as incitement to hatred by German prosecutors.

El Ghazi was dismissed with immediate effect after he posted a second message disputing the club’s claim that he had expressed regret for the first one.

Sports lawyer Alexander Bergweilen told Allgemeine Zeitung that Mainz had no lawful grounds to terminate El Ghazi’s contract, which ran until 2025.

“I see nothing stated in the new post that isn’t covered by [the right to] freedom of expression,” Bergweilen said.

Germany views “From the river to the sea” as a statement of support for Hamas that negates the existence of Israel, in violation of its penal code.

In the Netherlands, the appeal court in Amsterdam ruled in August that the slogan was an expression of hope that human rights and freedom will be recognised in the region, and did not constitute a criminal offence.

El Ghazi, who was born in Barendrecht, joined Mainz 05 after leaving PSV Eindhoven in the summer, having played 24 matches and scored eight goals last season. He has played two international matches for the Netherlands.

He started his career at Ajax, where he scored 20 goals in 70 appearances between 2014 and 2017. This season he has played just one league match for Mainz, who are 16th in the Bundesliga.

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