Morocco: Take action against El Haqed’s unfair prison sentence
Take action to help create public pressure for the immidiate release of the Moroccan rapper Mouad Belghaoute – also known as Lhaqed or El Haqed, ‘the enraged one’:
El Haqed was sentenced on 1 July 2014 to four months in prison amid concerns that the trial was unfair, and that he is being held because of his popularity and lyrics that condemn corruption and police brutality. Arrested on 18 May, El Haqed is expected to remain in prison until mid-September.
TWEET a message to the Minister of Justice & Liberties, Mr El Mustapha Ramid: @MincomMa
“@MincomMa: Release rapper El Haqed sentenced to 4 months after an unfair trial. #releaseelhaqed
(Or simply retweet Freemuse’s tweet)
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Mr Driss El Yazmi,
I am a [here describe yourself ie musician, student, other] resident in [country] and have learnt that singer Mouad Belghaoute (El Haqed) has been sentenced to four months in prison 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 Mouad Belgahoute be freed, and that if there be an appeal of his case, it be carried out fairly and with full access to all evidence available.
El Haqed, aged 26, was arrested on 18 May 2014 close by a football stadium. 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. El Haqed denies having attacked the policemen, saying that instead it was he who had been set upon 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Neither El Haqed nor his legal defence attended the verdict hearing, having withdrawn from the proceedings a week earlier, on 24 June, in protest that evidence, including the experts’ second opinion report of the medical certificate submitted by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. El Haqed also reportedly denies 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.
This is the third time that El Haqed has been sentenced in the past three years. 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 year, for ‘insulting the police’ in his song Klab Eddawla (Dogs of the State) and its accompanying video depicting a police officer with a donkey’s head broadcast on Youtube. He has been held in Oukacha prison in Casablanca since his third arrest on 18 May. His lawyers are considering an appeal.
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.
In a decision reminiscent of the case against El Haqed, in May this year, a court sentenced to prison nine activists accused of assault against police during a demonstration in April, although no evidence of the attack was presented other than confessions that the defendants claim they had not made.
In 2012, El Haqed was awarded the Transparency Integrity Award by the Morocco chapter of Transparency International given to those who have fought against corruption in the country.
El Haqed’s supporters believe that he is in reality being sentenced for his political views, for his commitment and for his popularity – and not for what he has been accused of. He has recently released an album called ‘Walou’ (‘Nothing’) – in which he states that nothing has changed in the field of justice, education and democracy.
Freemuse strongly condemns the court decision to sentence rapper El Haqed to four months prison in a trial that clearly did 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 release the artist immediately” says Ole Reitov, Executive Director of Freemuse.
» Freemuse: www.freemuse.org/archives/7879
» Human Rights Watch Statement: www.hrw.org
» Middle East Eye: www.middleeasteye.net