Lawyers of Moroccan rapper charged with defamation urge release

Posted: Apr 26, 2012

Lawyers for the Moroccan rapper Mouad Belghouat, detained on charges of defamation, on Wednesday asked a Casablanca court for the release of their client. Belghouat, also known as El-Haged, which means enraged in Arabic, was arrested on March 29. Known for his songs about corruption and social injustice, Belghouat is being tried for insulting state employees and official institutions. The police accused him of posting a song on the Internet, along with photos which it claims are insulting, like one of an officer with a donkey's face. The judge denied a defense request for bail after the prosecutor claimed the rapper posed as a threat to public order. His lawyers, however, told the trial judge that his case should be dropped because of some procedural complications but the trial was adjourned until April 30. The trial was not open to the public but that didn't stop supporters of Belghouat from chanting outside the court. His lawyer, Omar Benjelloun, described the charges as ridiculous and said the General Directorate for National Security should not be preoccupied with song lyrics, as it is supposed to be in charge of protecting the country. This isn't Belghouat's first run in with the law. Last year the rapper, who was involved in the February 20 movement calling for reforms in Morocco, was imprisoned for four months after getting into a brawl with a regime loyalist in a low-income suburb of the capital. He was released on January 12. By Noora Faraj Al Arabiya English