Tunisia: Weld El 15 Begins Prison Term

Tunisian rapper Weld El 15.

Tunis — Tunisian rapper Weld El 15 will spend the next four months in prison, unless he wins the appeal filed by his attorney on Monday (December 9th).

Last Thursday, the 25-year old artist (real name Ala Yaacoub) was sentenced for performing songs deemed insulting to police. The Hammamet court ordered him taken straight to his cell.

“I am concerned Weld El 15 may suffer bodily harm in prison,” defence lawyer Ghazi Mrabet told AFP.

Still, he found Yaacoub in “high spirits” when he visited him at Mornaguia prison in the western suburb of Tunis.

“I’m innocent because as an artist, I shouldn’t be imprisoned because of a song,” Yaacoub told his attorney.

At the end of August, Yaacoub and fellow rapper Klay BBJ were sentenced in absentia to a year and nine months in prison over their performance at the Hammamet International Festival. Klay BBJ was retried and acquitted in October, but Yaacoub had been hiding until he appeared in court last week.

“I handed myself in because I can’t spend my life on the run, but I’m not ready to go back to prison,” Weld El 15 noted before his retrial.

This is not first time for the artist to face a Tunisian court in connection with his music. Last summer, he was sentenced to 2 years in prison for his song Boulicia Kleb, but the conviction was overturned.

Tunisian rap union chief Wajdi Bouzaidi (the rapper known as “XCali”) told Magharebia that he did not know why Weld El 15 had decided to put his fate in the court’s hands at this juncture.

“We’ll try to calm things down and put an end to tensions between rappers and security services,” he said.

The rap union and Tunisia’s internal security forces union on November 22nd agreed to establish a permanent partnership, Bouzaydi said. The accord will be capped by a rap concert sponsored by the internal security forces union.

Bouzaidi said he hoped the agreement with the internal security forces union would resonate with the court when it reopened Weld El 15’s case.

“I hope the legal proceedings will come to an end to see Ala returning to his former activities,” fan Maher Senoussi agreed.

“He made a brave decision when he decided to face his fate at court,” art student Meriam al-Basli said, adding that fans had expected the court to dismiss the case, as it had done for Klay BBJ.

Ala Yaacoub’s attorney, meanwhile, expressed his hope that the trials of artists would come to an end in Tunisia.

“2014 will be dedicated to drafting the constitution, which we hope will emphasise the importance of freedom of expression and innovation,” Ghazi Mrabet told kapitalis.com.

The appeal hearing for Weld El will be held within a fortnight, he added.

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