Tunisian Rapper Ahmed Ben Ahmed, alias Klay BBJ, appeared today to the district court in Hammamet for being accused of insulting the police and the pro- Ennahdha government in some of his songs at a concert with Weld El- 15 in the International Festival of Hammamet.
The hearing took place after a verdict in absentia on September 2, sentencing him to one year and nine months in prison.
Minutes ago, Tunisian blogger Lina Ben Mhenni announced on her official Facebook fan page that Klay BBJ has been sentenced to 6 months in prison. His lawyers are expected the appeal the “unjust” verdict. Meanwhile, Klay BBJ will be deposited in Mornaguia prison.
In an interview with Huffpost Maghreb, Weld El- 15 told the story of their arrest on August 22:
“They (the police) were there at the beginning of the show to ensure safety, but they left the scene in the middle of the concert and returned with reinforcements at the end. They arrested us without a warrant. Masked police officers surrounded us while shouting “the target is in front of us,” I hallucinated! I told Klay “Tell me. They’re speaking about us while terrorists are fleeing Chaâmbi?!””
The arrest and conviction of Weld El- 15 and Klay BBJ sparked a wave of criticism towards the judicial system, the police and the government led by the Ennahdha Islamist party.
Human rights organizations denounced the use of the penal code against these rappers, for being inherited from ousted president Ben Ali and aiming to mute freedom of speech, expression and criticism.
On September 5, the Human Rights Watch issued a statement condemning the arrest and conviction of Weld El- 15 and Klay BBJ as a violation of freedom of expression. “To condemn artists, journalists and bloggers to prison for their critical works is not worthy of the new Tunisia,” said Joe Storck, Director of HRW’s Middle East and North Africa.
All types of freedom in Tunisia seem to be hunted down by the phantoms of suppression and dictatorship that were once exorcised by the power of Karma and justice.
Interviewed by The Tunis Times, a number of concerned citizens responded to Klay BBJ’s verdict as follows:
“All what I can say is “An artist must never be a prisoner”. Of course Henri Matisse meant “a prisoner of himself, prisoner of style, prisoner of reputation, prisoner of success, etc.” But I think that the current government’s prison is much more dangerous than the previously mentioned ones.” – Mohammed Hammemi
“I support freedom of expression, yet without crossing the lines. Still, spending six months in prison for a song is a rough punishment.” – Achref Nagati
“I’m with Klay BBJ who was merely expressing himself. Rap is well-known for its outspokenness. Rap is about the oppressed freedoms and the anger found in the hearts of thousands of our youths. Rap is also known for containing bad words. I’m sure that he was so angry with the bad treatment of the police that he wrote such a controversial song. The addressed police officers surely deserve it because they never stopped exercising repression even after the holy 2011 revolution took place. Let’s not forget about poor Sabri Sferi who was shot in his face by a police officer for no reason at all! That’s a proof that “policemen are dogs” (referring to the song of Weld El- 15).” – Eptihell Ben Abdallah