Morocco: 17-year-old rapper released after three months imprisonment

13 November 2014


Othman Atiq, a 17-year-old Moroccan rapper known as Mr Crazy, was released on 12 November 2014 after completing a three-month sentence for “offending a state institution,” “harming public morality,” and other offenses related to his lyrics.

Atiq, whose songs and music videos depict the gritty lives of Casablanca’s unemployed youth, is the second performer in Morocco’s flourishing rap music scene to go to prison for his lyrics, in violation of international free speech standards, wrote Human Rights Watch.

“The Moroccan government sent the wrong message by prosecuting a rapper like ‘Mr Crazy’ for peacefully expressing his views,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director. “Jailing a 17-year-old for his songs hardly makes sense in a country that regularly hosts international music festivals and human rights conferences.”

Atiq, who sings in Moroccan Arabic, has been in custody since responding to a summons from the Casablanca prosecutor on 8 August 2014. On 12 August the court transferred him to a juvenile detention facility in Ain Sbaa. On 17 October 2014, a Casablanca court juvenile chamber convicted him of “insulting a state institution” under the penal code, “incitement to consume drugs” under the narcotics law of 15 November 1958, and producing and displaying content that is “harmful to public morality” under the press code, Atiq’s lawyer, Saâdia Harrab, told Human Rights Watch.

In ‘Aqliya Mhabsa’ (‘Prison Mindset’), Atiq sings:

“In my country
you steal or you deal
a stick-up here, a dope sale there
all set up in advance
I got it worked out with the police
bought the market in my neighborhood
made the policeman my dog.”

The video for the song ‘Fatcha M’absa’ (‘Scowling Face’) shows young men lounging about on Casablanca streets: it features obscene words in English and images of pills and rolled cigarettes.

The offense of insulting a state institution is found in penal code articles 263 and 265. The court discounted Atiq’s assertion that he did not insult the institution in question – the police forces – but was rather criticizing individual police agents who were corrupt.

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Photo: from Mr Crazy’s Facebook page

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