On Thursday December 5, 2013, Weld el 15, a 25 year old Tunisian rap artist will go on trial in Hammamet, Tunisia for performing a concert in August this year. He has already been jailed once for his lyrics, which speak out against government and police corruption. After an ambitious campaign led by his supporters around the world, he was released from prison only to be arrested again for his music. In two days, he will be on trial and risks going back to prison for performing his music
We are concerned that his life will be threatened if he is imprisoned. Just one month ago, Denguir Walid, a 32 year old Tunisian man was tortured to death by the police in a police station a short distance from where Weld El 15 was raised. According to human rights organizations, he was “the victim of a savage torture by police officers.” Radhia Nasaroui, a lawyer and the President of the Tunisian Fighting Organization against Torture spoke out on ShemsFM.
If Weld el 15 is sent to prison again, he may suffer the same fate.
This case began on June 13, 2013 when the court of Ben Arous sentenced Weld el 15 to two years in prison for his song “Boulicia Kleb,” in which he denounces police brutality and an unfair judicial system. In response, there was a mass mobilization of Tunisian civil society and international media pressure that led to suspension of his sentence during his appeal hearing on July 2nd.
Since his release, Weld el 15 has been living under the constant threat of violence—in an open air prison. Throughout the summer, he has been the victim of almost daily police intimidation and judicial harassment. Some police officers have threatened to kill him on social networks. And others have appeared in civilian clothes at his home and frightened his family.
On August 11, while sitting on the terrace of a restaurant in Sousse with his girlfriend, Weld el 15 was recognized by the police who immediately approached him. They proceeded to insult him, push him and then dragged him away to another location where they beat him.
On August 22, Weld el 15 held his only performance for the summer at the Hammamet Festival. At the end of the concert, thirty hooded policemen busted into his dressing room and arrested him and fellow rapper Klay BBJ. The police beat them so severely that they were rushed to the hospital emergency room.
Sentenced in Absentia
One week later, Ghazi Mirabet, the rappers’ attorney learned through the press that the court of Hammamet tried to Weld el 15 and Klay BBJ in absentia and sentenced them to one year and nine months in prison. The trial was held and sentences declared without informing the artists or their lawyer so they could present their defense.
Today, the Tunisian government imprisons its artists simply for performing a concert. And the youth of Tunisia knows that there is no longer a Tunisian justice system, at most it is only capable of producing a semblance of one in service to the power of the police, heirs to the system of Ben Ali.
Even worse, these same judges who throw the youth that denounce police abuses into prisons, are also those who released the terrorists responsible for firing shots at the U.S. Embassy. The same police who hunt down rappers are incapable of finding those who murder the opponents of the Islamic regime—Chokri Belaid and more recently Mohamed Brahmi.
On December 5, the fate of a young 25 five-year artist will be at risk. If sentenced to prison, he will once again suffer from the violence and abuse of his jailers, which may even lead to his death.