Ahead of his arrest, Gnawi appeared in a “controversial” video where he lashed out at Morocco's security services.
Rabat – The Court of First Instance in Sale near Rabat sentenced Moroccan rapper Mohamed Mounir, better known as Gnawi, to one year in prison on Monday, November 25.
The court convicted the rapper, who will also pay a fine of MAD 1,000, on charges of insulting security services in a video posted on social media.
In a live video in early October, the rapper strongly criticized Morocco’s police. Police later arrested him on October 31.
Some rights activists claimed that the police targeted the rapper for a music video, featuring two other rappers.
The song, titled “Long Live the People,” is described as controversial. Released on October 29, the track shows Gnawi with two other rappers strongly criticizing the government for corruption and poverty, saying that it leads to “drug abuse” among young people.
The song garnered 16 million views on YouTube and went viral since its release.
Amnesty International issued a statement to condemn the court’s ruling, calling for Gnawi’s immediate release.
“This is a disgraceful verdict. There can be no justification for imprisoning the Moroccan rapper Gnawi for a year simply because he exercised his right to freedom of expression,” Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director Heba Morayef said yesterday.
In response, the lawyer representing police, Abdelfattah Yatribi, told the press that the trial has “nothing to do withfreedom of expression.”
He described the case as a “penal code” issue. Police argued that the arrest has nothing to do with the song, explaining that they did not arrest the two other rappers.
Selmali, who appears alongside Gnawi in the song, told the AP that the musicians did not want to create controversy but to speak up against major challenges citizens face. Yahia Semlali, otherwise known as Lz3er, also appeared in the music video.
Gnawi’s case gained international media coverage. It was also the main topic during the Moroccan government’s weekly press conference when the spokesperson of the Moroccan government criticized the track.
Hassan Abyaba said at the press conference that all songs “must respect the citizens, the constancy of the nation and the principles and values that are part of the Moroccans’ education.
It remains to be seen whether Gnawi will appeal the sentence.