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Morocco: rapper faces possible two-year jail sentence for 'offending' police

Trial of Gnawi due to begin tomorrow, as popular singer faces prosecution apparently related to his music

‘He must be released immediately and all charges in this absurd case against him dropped’ - Heba Morayef

The arrest and prosecution of a popular Moroccan rapper is an “outrageous assault on free speech”, said Amnesty International ahead of the musician’s trial tomorrow. 

Mohamed Mounir - widely known as Gnawi, whose YouTube channel has been viewed millions of times - was arrested on 1 November, and charged with “offending” public officials and public bodies over a video in which he insults the police. 

Accusations against the rapper relate to a speech he made in a video published on YouTube on 24 October after he was stopped by police at a checkpoint the same night. In the video, he swears at the police and insults them. 

Gnawi’s arrest also came just days after he released a video for his song “Aâcha El Chaâb” (Long Live The People), in which he criticises the Moroccan authorities and indirectly makes a derogatory reference to the Moroccan King. This raises suspicions that Gnawi’s arrest was linked to the music video, which has been viewed more than nine million times and gained international attention. 

In Morocco, insulting the king is a criminal offence and if convicted Gnawi faces up to two years in prison. Since his arrest, the rapper has been held in Laârjate prison in the city of Salé.

Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director, said: 

“The arrest of Moroccan rapper Gnawi is an outrageous assault on free speech. 

“While Gnawi may have used offensive language to refer to the police, the right to freely express one’s views, even if shocking or offensive, is protected by international human rights law. 

“No-one should face punishment for freely speaking their minds.

“He is blatantly being punished for expressing his critical views of the police and the authorities. 

“He must be released immediately and all charges in this absurd case against him dropped.”
 

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