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Tunisia jails two for song describing police as dogs

Two rappers on trial for calling police dogs in a video

Reuters, Wednesday 13 Mar 2013
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Two Tunisians have been detained for insulting the police by making a rap video describing them as dogs, in a case likely to fire debate over free speech under the new Islamist-led government.

"The rap video posted on Youtube called the police dogs and contains expressions and gestures that affect morals and threaten the security of officers and magistrates," the Ministry of Interior said on Tuesday in a statement.

Mohamed Hedi Belgueyed and actress Sabrine Klibi were arrested on Sunday and appeared at the Court of First Instance in Ben Arous on Tuesday. The court decided to keep them in prison until their trial, the ministry added.

A third rapper known as "Weld el 15" is still sought by police.

The video features footage of security forces. Weld el 15 sings rap lyrics calling police dogs and says they use violence unjustifiably.

"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 a violent art," weld el 15 said in video published on facebook.

Secular groups say freedom of creativity and expression are threatened under the moderate Islamist Ennahda-led government.

In particular, they accuse authorities of failing to prevent attacks by militant Islamist Salafis on cultural institutions and individuals.

Salafis prevented several concerts and plays from taking place last year, saying they violated Islamic principles. They ransacked the U.S. embassy in September during worldwide Muslim protests over an Internet video.

The government says it supports freedom of expression and press.

Facebook users have launched pages to support Klibi and Belgueyed and called for protests to support freedom of expression.

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