CASABLANCA, Morocco, July 9, 2012 (AFP) -
CASABLANCA, Morocco, July 9, 2012 (AFP) –
Moroccan rapper Mouad Belghouat, who was jailed for insulting police, began a 48-hour hunger strike on Monday to protest against the conditions of his detention, a friend told AFP.
Belghouat’s decision came as an appeals court delayed for a third time a review of his one-year jail sentence, with a new hearing postponed from Monday until July 23.
“This hunger strike is aimed at protesting against Mouad’s conditions at the Oukacha prison in Casablanca, which are scandalous to say the least,” his friend Maria Karim said.
Belghouat, a 24-year-old nicknamed “The Rancorous One” and known for songs critical of the Moroccan monarchy, was arrested on March 28 and sentenced on May 11 to a year in prison.
He was accused of “insulting a police officer in the exercise of his duties” after a YouTube video of one of his songs was uploaded to the Internet, and was fined 1,000 dirhams (90 euros).
The song, set to a Belghouat tune called “Kilab al-Dawla” (“Dogs of the State” in Arabic), denounces police corruption, according to Human Rights Watch which last month criticised the rapper’s sentence.
“The sentencing… shows the gap between the strong free-expression language in Morocco’s 2011 constitution and the continuing intolerance for those who criticise state institutions,” HRW said on May 12.
The New York-based rights watchdog noted that the May 11 sentencing came a week before Morocco hosted the international Mawazine music festival in Rabat and urged Moroccan authorities to scrap the charges.
“Morocco hosts one famous international music festival after another each spring, but meanwhile it imprisons one of its own singers solely because of lyrics and images that displease the authorities,” HRW’s Sarah Leah Whitson said at the time.
Belghouat has denied any responsibility for posting the footage on YouTube. He belongs to the pro-reform “February 20 movement” which had been demanding a parliamentary monarchy similar to Spain’s and an end to corruption in Morocco.
But the movement lost much of its support in December after the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party won most parliamentary seats in November elections and broke with it.