The detained Moroccan rapper El Haqed will stand trial again on 29 May 2014. Freemuse talked with El Haqed’s attorney, Mohemed Messoudi, who provides new information about the case.
By Daniel Brown
Could you describe the circumstances of El Haqed’s arrest?
“Haqed was arrested on Sunday 18 May at around 2pm along with his younger brother Hamza. They were about to enter the Mohamed V stadium in Casablanca to watch a football game. The police aggressively arrested them at the stadium entrance for no apparent or valid reason. According to Haqed, the police proceeded to torture them at the police station.”
Did El Haqed recently compose and release songs that could have angered the authorities?
“He has just released an album called Walou which means ‘Nothing’ (nothing has changed in the fields of justice, education, democracy, there is too much corruption and we are living under a dictatorship, with torture, etc…). The presentation (sic) of the album has already been banned by the Moroccan authorities. There has also been several of Haqed’s concerts that have been vetoed.”
How would you describe the current situation for musicians in Morocco?
“It’s simple: If you sing for the governors and the statesmen you are given the support that you need – money, publicity and the possibility of performing at festivals and on stage. You can even be decorated. If you take the opposite stance and dare criticise the current political, economic and social situation in the country, you run the risk of going to prison and you are banned from playing or appearing in any (official) media.”
Why does El Haqed continue to be harassed?
“Because of his political positions and his opinions and, especially, because he represents the people.”
Bladi newspaper claims his arrest has nothing to do with his political beliefs. [They claim it is because he had some cannabis in his possession, Ed.] Is this true?
“Bladi has adopted the official version of his arrest which is in total contradiction with the truth.”
How do you respond to allegations that El Haqed was himself violent in the course of his arrest?
“These accusations are unfounded. Haqed kept silent during his interrogation but the judiciary police showed (the court) a three-page statement (by the accused). Several people have testified that Haqed was assaulted by the police in the course of his arrest for no valid reason. We have demanded that the witnesses be heard by the King’s prosecutor. This request has been rejected with no explanation given.”
When you say ‘the presentation of the album’, can this album can be found in stores?
“No, you can not find this album in stores in Morocco, as Haqed criticizes the Moroccan political system, no distributor agrees to cooperate with him, the only option is direct sale to people who are interested in his music and also via social networks facebook youtube, and so on, and yes, there were sales using its own means.”
What is the popularity of El Haqed?
“Considering he is banned by all media and official festivals because of his activism and political positions, EL Haqed finds his popularity via social media. His songs are listened to by thousands of people on Youtube. His first arrest was adopted by Amnesty International and several international and national human rights associations.”
In which prison is he kept?
“In Ain Borja Prison in Casablanca.”
What are the conditions of detention for him?
“I can not say much on this subject as only one visit has been granted to his older brother, so I do not have much detail.”
His brother was also imprisoned there?
“No, he was released the same day.”
What are the political views of Haqed?
“He criticizes the corruption, which reigns the political, economic and social life. Considering his reputation and sincerity to the Moroccan people – his voice and his songs disturb authorities more and more.”
What are the next steps in the process? The dates?
“A hearing is scheduled on Thursday 29 May at the Court of First Instance Ain Sebaa in Casablanca.”
Could you briefly introduce yourself? Do you have the habit of defending prisoners of conscience and artists?
“I am Mohemed Messoudi, barrister in Casablanca, I am an active member of the Moroccan Human Rights, a member of a network of lawyers and advocates against the death penalty and a member of the Moroccan Observatory of Prisons.”