Africa

Tunisian rapper Weld El 15 sentenced again

Tunisian rapper Ala Yaacoubi (13 June 2013)
Image caption Ala Yaacoubi's lawyer says he was not informed about the latest trial

A Tunisian rapper has been sentenced to 21 months in prison for insulting the police, just two months after he was freed following public protests.

Ala Yaacoubi, known as Weld El 15, was given a two-year sentence in June for his song The Police Are Dogs.

His sentence was suspended in July and he was released from prison. He and fellow rapper Klay BBJ were convicted of insulting the police at a concert.

They were not in court and now have to hand themselves in to the authorities.

His lawyer said the case was an attack on freedom of expression.

"I will speak to my clients to challenge this ruling, but jail sentences demonstrate that the relentless campaign against artistic freedom, freedom of expression, continues," said Ghazi Mrabet, quoted by the AFP news agency.

He said neither he nor his client had been informed about the latest trial.

The lawyer denied that Weld El 15 had sung The Police Are Dogs at the concert in the resort of Hammamet.

Prime Minister Ali Larayedh denied that freedom of expression was being threatened in Tunisia, noting that the rapper's original prosecution was "for inciting hatred and calling for the death of police and magistrates".

Although the 25-year-old was not a particularly well-known performer, his case was taken up by human rights activists, bloggers and journalists, who campaigned for him to be released.

Tunisia elected a moderate Islamist-led government after the overthrow of long-serving ruler Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.

There has since been an increase in the prominence of ultra-conservative Islamists known as Salafists, who campaign for greater public piety in Tunisia.

This is being resisted by more secular and liberal Tunisians.

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