News / Africa

    Moroccan Activist Rapper Released from Prison

    Moad Belghouat says he will continue to sing for political change as part of February 20 Movement

    A rally organized by the 20th February, the Moroccan Arab Spring movement in Marrakech, Morocco, Sunday May 8, 2011, to protest against the terrorism following the bomb explosion in Marrakech last week
    A rally organized by the 20th February, the Moroccan Arab Spring movement in Marrakech, Morocco, Sunday May 8, 2011, to protest against the terrorism following the bomb explosion in Marrakech last week

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    Ricci Shryock

    Politically active Moroccan rapper Moad Belghouat, known as “Al-Haqed,” was released from prison Thursday, as he vowed to continue singing protest songs against what he said is "massive corruption” in the country.

    Belghouat became a symbol for the country’s February 20 movement, which has been calling for sweeping changes to the constitution amid the wave of pro-democracy Arab Spring uprisings in the region.

    Kamilia Raouyane said musicians such as Belghouat help the movement spread its message. "When you talk to someone this person can misunderstand you, but when you talk using music or especially when it’s about rap music - the message is understood by the person,” he said.

    Belghouat spent four months in prison after authorities said he assaulted a monarchist. His lawyers said the charges were politically motivated, and Raouyane agreed. "Moad 'Al-Haqed' was a member of the movement of the 20th of February, he was very active," she said. "This annoyed the government and the state, so they tried to stop him from politics and from being a member of the movement. He was arrested for beating someone. It was not true.”

    Thursday the court sentenced Belghouat to four months in prison, but ruled that the four months he had already served counted toward his sentence. Upon his release he promised to produce more protest songs.

    Morocco's King Mohamed VI has put reforms in place since the Arab Spring caused regime change in other North African countries such as Egypt and Libya. But the February 20th Movement is pushing for more concrete changes than what the government has offered. "When we analyze the new constitution, we find that it’s the same thing as the other and even worse," she added. "So we want a real change of constitution -  freedom of speech. We want a real democracy. We want freedom, and we want social justice.”

    Belghouat’s music, such as the song “Bite Just as Much as You Can Chew,” which has had more than 600,000 hits on Youtube, will continue to be part of that message of change, said the rapper

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