3 Jul 2013

Rapper who called police 'dogs' in song to be freed from prison

7:31 am on 3 July 2013

An appeals court in Tunisia has ordered the release from jail of a rap singer who described police as 'dogs' in a music video.

Critics say free expression has been threatened under the governing coalition led by the Ennahda party.

Last month, a court sentenced Ala Yaacoub - more widely known by his rap name Weld El 15 - to two years in prison for insulting police by accusing them of using excessive force against ordinary people.

In a video posted on YouTube that triggered the court case, the singer can be heard saying: "Police, magistrates, I'm here to tell you one thing: you dogs, I'll kill police instead of sheep; Give me a gun, I'll shoot them."

In a separate internet post earlier this year, he said:

"I was only using the language of the police. They have harassed me verbally and physically. As an artist, the only way I could answer them is through art. I gave them violent art."

Lawyer Ghazi Mrabit said the appeals court had reduced the sentence to a six-month suspended jail term, and "this means he will be freed now ... This is a historic victory for freedom of expression and democracy in Tunisia".

Dozens of the rapper's fans rallied to welcome the verdict and shouted anti-police slogans. Police did not intervene.

On Monday, Prime Minister Ali Larayedh said that the issue of the rap singer had nothing to do with free speech, rather he was in prison because of his call to kill.