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Tunisian rapper Weld El 15 now sentenced to four months in jail

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) denounces the unfair sentence issued by Hammamet Court on 5 December 2013 against Tunisian rapper Alaa Yacoubi. The court ordered that he be jailed for four months over charges of insulting the police and violating ethics particularly after he performed a song critical of the police in Tunisia at a party in August 2013 which was deemed insulting.

Yacoubi, who performs under the name of "Weld El 15", and rapper Ahmed Ben Ahmed, known as "Klay BBJ", had been hosting a party in Hammamet on 23 August in which they were accused of threatening police officers.

As a consequence, a lawsuit was filed against them accusing the rappers of public slander. During their hearing on 29 August, the court sentenced them to imprisonment for one year and nine months in absentia. Klay BBJ appealed the verdict and was acquitted. Weld El 15, on the other hand, was given a four-month prison sentence and detained immediately after the verdict was announced. His lawyer plans to appeal the verdict.

Weld El 15 has faced accusations on multiple occasions against the backdrop of his critical song lyrics. The Appeals Court in Tunis handed him a six-month suspended sentence in July 2013. The reduced sentence had replaced the two-year sentence he received in absentia for one particular song entitled "police are dogs" which was seen as an insult to public servants.

“Tunisian authorities should accept the criticism of rappers through their songs. They should suspend the prosecution of rappers and the criminal trials against them for expressing peaceful opinions," said ANHRI, "Such practices make us deeply concerned over the future of freedom of expression in Tunisia as well as the absence of the political will in order to reform this issue."

ANHRI calls for the release of rapper Weld El 15 and for all false accusations against him to be dropped. It also calls on authorities to halt the prosecution of rappers and to allow them to perform in a safe climate.

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