CASABLANCA, Morocco, March 29, 2013 (AFP)
Moroccan rapper Mouad Belghouat, a voice of the February 20 pro-reform movement jailed for defaming the police, was freed on Friday after serving a one-year sentence.
Belghouat, 25, was arrested in March last year and convicted over a song he wrote called “Dogs of the State,” which denounced police corruption and was deemed an affront to Morocco’s entire police force.
The main evidence against the rapper was a YouTube video containing a photo-montage of a policeman whose head had been replaced by that of a donkey.
Speaking to reporters in Casablanca, Belghouat, who goes by the stage name Al-Haqed (The Rancorous One), vowed to stay true to his principles.
“My principles will not change. I am the same. The experience in prison taught me many things. I became wiser after speaking with numerous Islamists, criminals and activists,” he said.
Known for his songs that criticised the monarchy and the political establishment, Belghouat became a public face of the February 20 movement which was born out of the Arab Spring protests sweeping the region in 2011 and demanded sweeping reforms in Morocco.
Moroccan right groups say around 70 of its members remain in jail, convicted on charges ranging from insulting the police and unauthorised demonstrations to drug trafficking.
During his trial, Belghouat’s defence team had said the song for which he was convicted was an artistic creation that should not draw punishment, and argued that freedom of speech was on trial.
While in prison, Belghouat went on hunger strike to protest against the conditions of his detention.
He was also awarded an “integrity” prize by Transparency Morocco, for his “honesty and the justice of his fight” for a better society.
After his release on Friday, the rapper said he planned to concentrate on his studies and on his music, adding that he was currently working on a new album.