Having served his third prison sentence since Morocco’s February 20th Movement uprising started, Morocco’s dissident rapper Mouad Belghouat known by his stage name El Haqed has been released from Ain Borja prison in Casablanca on 18 September 2014.
By Nadir Bouhmouch, Freemuse
Arrested on 18 May 2014, El Haqed was charged by a lower Casablanca court with public drunkenness and the assault of a police officer. Supporters claim that these are trumped up charges and point to lyrics critical of the regime in his latest album ‘Walou’ as the real reason for his arrest.
Before his release, El Haqed’s fans, friends and family struggled to organise a reception outside the prison since information on the time of release was not made available to the public by the authorities. Some activists speculate that this was an intentional move. “They are playing with us,” said February 20th Movement activist Khalid Abourkia: “They don’t want us to celebrate his release.”
Due to this lack of information, Mouad’s supporters spent the night in front of the prison doors, brandishing February 20th Movement banners. They were joined by more supporters in the early morning.
“We are here to welcome Mouad El Haqed and to let him know that he is not alone and that we are with him. This is also a stand in solidarity with all political prisoners, telling the regime that the February 20th movement will continue the struggle,” said Abourkia.
Human rights demonstration
After his release, supporters including activists from the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) held a short demonstration and called for the release of all political prisoners in Morocco.
El Haqed has served a four month sentence during which he is said to have undergone psychological abuse. He now awaits another trial in the Court of Appeals on 13 October 2014 where he could face more prison time.
Delayed several times, the 13 October trial was called for by El Haqed’s lawyers in order to cut his four month sentence short, but also by the prosecution who seek to prolong it. Having served the entire sentence, the defense now only seeks to prevent additional time.
El Haqed’s release date coincided with the trial of eleven February 20th movement activists who were arrested on 6 April 2014. This trial was postponed to 30 October 2014.