On Monday, Tunisian rappers Ala Yaacoubi, known as “Weld El 15″, and Ahmed Ben Ahmed, known as “Klay BBJ”, were sentenced to twenty-one months in prison. They were convicted of insulting the police and undermining public decency after their performance at a concert in Hammamet on August 22.
Ala Yaacoubi is a Tunisian rapper well-known for his criticism of the police. (Photo Courtesy of AFP)
The court’s ruling was in absentia. According to the rappers’ defense lawyer, Ghazi Mrabet, the two artists were never summoned to appear.
“We are surprised by this verdict…Our clients have not been summoned for trial as it is stipulated by law,” Mrabet told the private radio station Mosaique FM.
Following the concert, the artists were detained by police and questioned before being released. Mrabet added that his clients were physically assaulted by police during the detainment and that a doctor had documented Yaacoubi’s injuries.
In June, Yaacoubi made headlines when he was convicted of insulting police and sentenced to two years for his song “Police Are Dogs” (Boulicia Kleb). The anti-police song has a music video that has a montage of police beatings. After outrage from human rights and censorship groups, Yaacoubi had his sentenced reduced to six months and suspended.
The authorities have accused Yaacoubi and Ahmed of performing “Police Are Dogs” at the August 22 concert.
Both rappers are in hiding while they await the appeal process, despite demands to turn themselves in. Mrabet was adamant that the court’s decision violated free speech and would be appealed. “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,” said Ghazi Mrabet.
Prime Minister Ali Larayedh denied that freedom of expression is an issue in Tunisia, pointing to Yaacoubi’s June conviction “for inciting hatred and calling for the death of police and magistrates.”
Via Impunity Watch.
- Tunisian rapper sentenced again
- Two Rappers, Including Weld el 15, Arrested on Stage for Criticizing Police
- Tunisia hands two rappers jail terms
- Tunisia: Rappers Sentenced to Prison
- Tunisian rapper Weld El 15 sentenced again
- Weld el 15 on the Run after Receiving New Prison Sentence
- Tunisian rapper claims police brutality
- Tunisia: Rappers Sentenced To Prison