Tu­nisian rap­per gets jail for call­ing po­lice ‘dogs’ in song

Weekend Witness - - News -

TU­NIS — A Tu­nisian court has sen­tenced a rap singer to two years in jail in ab­sen­tia for in­sult­ing the po­lice in a case likely to fuel de­bate over free speech un­der the Is­lamist-led government.

The singer, known as Weld el 15, is on the run. Two of his as­so­ci­ates, singers Mo­hamed Hedi Belgueyed and Sabrine Klibi, were in court when they re­ceived sus­pended sen­tences of six months each, a Jus­tice Min­istry source said yes­ter­day.

Belgueyed and Klibi were ar­rested ear­lier this month for a mu­sic video in which lyrics sung by Weld el 15 de­scribe po­lice as dogs and ac­cuse them of us­ing vi­o­lence un­jus­ti­fi­ably.

The two men asked the judge to par­don them be­fore the sen­tences were handed down at Thurs­day’s court pro­ceed­ings.

“I was only us­ing the lan­guage of the po­lice. They have ha­rassed me ver­bally and phys­i­cally. As an artist, the only way I could an­swer them is through art. I gave them a vi­o­lent art,” Weld el 15 said in a video on Face­book.

Sec­u­lar groups said free­dom of cre­ativ­ity and ex­pres­sion are threat­ened un­der a coali­tion led by Tu­nisia’s mod­er­ate Is­lamist En­nahda party, a charge the government de­nies.

They ac­cuse au­thor­i­ties of fail­ing to pre­vent at­tacks by mil­i­tant Is­lamist Salafis on cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions and in­di­vid­u­als.

Salafis dis­rupted sev­eral con­certs and plays last year, say­ing they vi­o­lated Is­lamic prin­ci­ples.

They also ran­sacked the U.S. em­bassy in Septem­ber dur­ing world­wide Mus­lim protests over an In­ter­net video. — Reuters.

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