A Tunisian court handed suspended four-month prison sentences to a Tunisian rapper and a journalist accused of insulting public officials, and acquitted another musician.
“This is an initial victory, because they risked a year and six months in prison,” Ghazi Mrabet said, adding that he would discuss the verdict with his clients and advise them to appeal.
Tunisian rappers Aymen Feki and Moustapha Fakhfakh, as well as the French-Tunisian journalist Hind Meddeb, were charged with insulting public officials and attacks on public morals, crimes punishable by jail terms of one year and six months respectively. Fakhfakh was acquitted.
The charges related to a confrontation between police and protesters in June at the end of the trial of rapper Weld El 15, who was jailed for defaming the police in a song by the same court in the Ben Arous suburb of Tunis.
Meddeb was accused of insulting the police in the courtroom, and Feki of lashing out at the police during street scuffles afterwards. “Moustapha, Aymen and I are here to give a sign of good faith. We believe we have done nothing wrong,” Meddeb told AFP before the trial.
She admitted to shouting insults when the scuffles broke out after the conviction of Weld El 15 who was later freed on appeal when his jail term was reduced to a six-month suspended sentence. But she insisted that the insults “were not addressed” to the police or the judiciary.
The two rappers had also pleaded innocent to the charges against them.
Mrabet asked the judge on Monday to drop the charges against all three, stressing that Meddeb had been questioned by police without an interpreter present, even though she does not speak Arabic.
Since an Islamist-led government took power after Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, trials of musicians and journalists have multiplied, sparking charges from rights groups that the authorities are stifling freedom of expression.
Ala Yacoubi, known as Weld El 15, has been on the run since August when he received a 21-month jail sentence in absentia, on separate charges of performing songs deemed insulting to the police at a concert in the eastern town of Hammamet.
He plans to appeal against the verdict in court on December 5, after a fellow rapper, Klay BBJ, who was convicted on the same charges, was released on appeal in September after contesting the ruling.