Morocco: Take action against the prosecution of rapper El Haqed

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Take action to help create public pressure in support of the Moroccan rapper Mouad Belghaoute – also known as ‘Lhaqed’, ‘L7a9d’ and ‘El Haqed’ – meaning: ‘the enraged one’

El Haqed has been imprisoned on spurious charges three times in as many years, most recently for four months in 2014 amid concerns that the trial was unfair, and that he was being held because of his popularity and lyrics that condemn corruption and police brutality.

El Haqed faces difficulties in pursuing his recording career because studios do not want to work with him because they fear government surveillance. He is banned from performing in public and lives with the knowledge that every action is being watched.

His court case is still pending.

 

TWEET a message to the Minister of Justice & Liberties, Mr El Mustapha Ramid: @MincomMa

“@MincomMa: Stop the prosecution and surveillance of rapper El Haqed.

 

AND / OR

 

EMAIL your own message to the President of the National Human Rights Council, using the suggested text below:

President of National Human Rights Council, Mr Driss El Yazmi – Email: elyazami@cndh.org.ma

Dear Mr Driss El Yazmi,

I am a [here describe yourself i.e. musician, student, teacher, other] resident in [country] and have learnt that rapper Mouad Belghaoute (El Haqed) was sentenced to four months in prison in 2014 following an unfair trial that, among other failings, did not allow the defence to present crucial evidence.

Belghaoute is closely linked to the pro-democracy movement and has been outspoken on corruption and police brutality in Morocco. His popularity as a rap musician makes his work more widely known, and thus makes him particularly susceptible to retribution by his critics.

I therefore urge that your prosecution of Mouad Belgahoute is stopped immediately.

 

 
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BACKGROUND

Close to a football stadium on 18 May 2014, the 26-year-old rapper El Haqed was arrested. He was accused of being drunk in public, of assaulting policemen and of selling tickets on the black market.

On 1 July 2014, El Haqed was ordered to pay 1,350 euros in damages to the two policemen he is accused of attacking. The accusation of selling tickets on the black market was removed. He was convicted on the charges of assault and taken to Oukacha prison in Casablanca.

El Haqed denied having attacked the policemen, saying that instead it was he who had been set up by police.

Neither El Haqed nor his legal defence attended the verdict hearing, having withdrawn from the proceedings a week earlier, on 24 June, in protest that evidence, including the experts’ second opinion report of the medical certificate submitted by the police who claim assault and testimonies from witnesses to the event, had not been accepted by the court.

Witnesses who saw El Haqed being assaulted by police during his arrest were not allowed to give their testimony, and key pieces of evidence were rejected by the court without reason.

El Haqed also denied having made a statement to police that was presented to the court, saying that he had not signed the document and had refused to answer questions.

El Haqed’s supporters believed that he was in reality being sentenced for his political views, for his commitment and for his popularity – and not for what he was being accused of. When he was arrested, he was just about to release an album called ‘Walou’ (‘Nothing’) – in which he states that nothing has changed in the field of justice, education and democracy.



‘Walou’ (‘Nothing’) was posted on youtube.com in March 2014 and has since then been viewed over one million times.


Three times in prison
This was the third time in the previous three years that El Haqed was sentenced to imprisonment.

He served four months in late 2011 for an alleged assault on a pro-government protestor during a demonstration, a conviction which was heavily criticised as being based on fabricated, unsubstantiated evidence.

He was again imprisoned in May 2012, this time for a full year, for ‘insulting the police’ in his song ‘Klab Eddawla’ (‘Dogs of the State’) and its accompanying video which depicts a police officer with a donkey’s head and which was distributed via youtube.com.

El Haqed has been closely involved with the 20th February movement which staged pro-democracy demonstrations across Morocco from February 2011 until the early months of 2012. His song ‘Baraka Men Skat’ (‘No More Silence’) became an anthem for the movement.


Similar case
In a decision reminiscent of the case against El Haqed, in May 2014, a court sentenced nine activists to prison. They were accused of assault against police during a demonstration in April 2014, although no evidence of the attack was presented other than confessions that the defendants claim they had not made.


Awards
In 2012, El Haqed was awarded the Transparency Integrity Award by the Morocco chapter of Transparency International given to those who have fought or fights against corruption in the country.

On 18 March 2015, El Haqed received the 2015 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award for Arts – and award which celebrates the world’s most remarkable fighters for free expression. He spoke at the ceremony in London.


Trial doesn’t conform to international standards
Freemuse strongly condemns the Moroccan authorities’ persecution and prosecution of the young rapper El Haqed. His on-going trial does not conform to international standards of fairness. Freemuse has attended several hearings and is very critical to the courts decision of not accepting evidences, witnesses and expertise of the defence.

“It has not been a fair trial from the beginning and we appeal to the Moroccan authorities to stop prosecuting the artist immediately,” said Ole Reitov, Executive Director of Freemuse.

 

Read more:

» Index on Censorship – 18 March 2015:
El Haqed: I will fight for freedom, equality and human rights for ever

» Open letter from 11 organisations to Moroccan minister about El Haqed

» Freemuse – 18 September 2014:
Dissident rapper Mouad El Haqed released

» Freemuse – 2 July 2014:
Rapper sentenced to four months in prison

» Middle East Eye – 2 July 2014:
Pro-democracy Moroccan rapper given four month jail sentence

» Human Rights Watch – 2 July 2014:  
Morocco rapper convicted after apparently unfair trial

» Middle East Eye – 5 June 2014:
Trial of Moroccan rapper rallies pro-democracy movement