Moroccan rapper charged for anti-police song

April 4, 2012 - 1:56 PM
Morocco Rapper Trial

Larbi Chentoufi, Mouad Belghouat's lawyer gestures at the court during the case of Mouad Belghouat, the Moroccan rapper, also known as El-Haqed, or "the enraged", in Casabalnce Wednesday April 4, 2012. A Moroccan court denied bail on Wednesday to a rapper charged with attacking the image of the security services in a song about police corruption. Mouad Belghouat was arrested March 29 after Morocco's National Security agency filed a suit against him, and he is now being tried for insulting state employees and official institutions, a charge that could lead to a prison sentence. (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)

RABAT, Morocco (AP) — A Moroccan court denied bail on Wednesday to a rapper charged with attacking the image of the security services in a song about police corruption.

Mouad Belghouat was arrested March 29 after Morocco's National Security agency filed a suit against him, and he is now being tried for insulting state employees and official institutions, a charge that could lead to a prison sentence.

The rapper, also known as El-Haqed, or "the enraged," writes songs about corruption and social injustice and is involved in the pro-democracy February 20 movement.

He also has written songs attacking King Mohammed VI for his vast wealth and high ranking on the Forbes magazine lists.

The police accused Belghouat of posting a song on the Internet accompanied by photos insulting to police, including one showing an officer with the head of a donkey.

The judge denied a defense request for bail after the prosecutor argued that the rapper presented a risk to the public order. The case was adjourned until April 16.

Belghouat's lawyer said the montage accompanying the song was posted by someone else and the whole case is just a political attack on a well known activist.

"In the song, Mouad accuses certain policemen of corruption. This isn't a scoop. Everyone says so and international organizations confirm it," Larbi Chentoufi told The Associated Press. "El-Haqed is in front of the judges for his opinions."

It is the second time the rapper, who comes from a sprawling slum in Casablanca, Morocco's largest city, has tangled with authorities.

Belghouat was jailed for four months last year for getting into a fight with a regime supporter in the gritty, low-income suburb of Casablanca where he now lives. His supporters say the charges were trumped up.

He was released on Jan. 12 in a case that mobilized the country's activist community.

Morocco was swept with pro-democracy demonstrations like many other countries in the Middle East last year, but the king managed to defuse popular anger with a series of reforms.

Belghouat has continued his activist work in poor neighborhoods. The song he is charged for, called "Dogs of the State," is addressed to the police.

"You are paid to protect the citizens, not to steal their money," says one lyric. "Did your commander order you to take money from the poor?" says another.

The song asks the police to arrest the wealthy businessmen who have divided the country up for themselves.

Morocco, a popular tourist destination for Europeans, has one of the highest discrepancies between rich and poor in the Arab world, according to international development agencies.