Tunisia rappers jailed for insulting officials
02 September 2013, 15:45
Tunis - Two Tunisian rappers, Weld El 15 and Klay BBJ, have
been given jail terms of one year and nine months in absentia for insulting
officials, their lawyer said on Monday.
"This trial took place without us being summoned,"
said Ghazi Mrabet.
"I will speak to my clients to challenge this ruling,
but jail sentences demonstrate that the relentless campaign against artistic
freedom, freedom of expression, continues," he added.
The two young men, who were arrested at a concert in the
eastern town of Hammamet on 22 August and freed the following day, were
convicted of insulting officials, violating public morals and defamation.
Mrabet said he was surprised to hear about the trial, which
took place on Friday without him being informed, because he was waiting to
receive the court summons and the charges against his clients.
The lawyer said he found out about the court ruling through
the local media but had to wait until Monday for confirmation.
The justice ministry and the judiciary refuse to comment on
One of the two rappers, Weld El 15, was jailed in June for a
song he wrote called "The Police are Dogs", and freed on appeal in
July after his two year sentence was reduced on appeal to a six month suspended
Freedom of speech
The police have said that the words of their songs had been
offensive to public officials, a crime that carries a possible jail sentence in
The original trial of Weld El 15, whose real name is Ala
Yaacoubi, sparked a scandal at the time, with members of the opposition and
human rights groups calling it an attack on freedom of speech.
But Islamist Prime Minister Ali Larayedh dismissed those
claims, saying the musician was being prosecuted "for inciting hatred and
calling for the death of police and magistrates".
Mrabet has insisted that Weld El 15 had not sung the song in
question at the concert in Hammamet.
"He sang his old repertoire, songs dating to the time
of [ousted strongman Zine El Abidine] Ben Ali," the lawyer said, speaking
the day after the arrest last month.