TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — A Tunisian court convicted on Thursday a rap artist for insulting police with a song calling them dogs and sentenced him to two years in prison, his lawyer said.
The verdict comes as Tunisia’s justice system is under increasing scrutiny after a series of controversial decisions, including sentencing women’s rights activists to four months in prison for demonstrating topless while releasing suspects in last year’s attack on the U.S. Embassy.
Lawyer Ghazi Mrabet described the sentence as overly severe and said he would appeal the verdict against his client Alaa Yacoub, 24, known by his rapper name Weld El 15, or “Son of 15.”
Yacoub’s song “Boulicia Kleb,” or “the police are dogs,” was released on YouTube.
He was originally tried and convicted in absentia for inciting violence against officials and insulting police back in March. He turned himself in and was retried, but given the same two-year sentence.
His supporters were outraged by the verdict and struggled with police outside the courtroom. Four people, including a journalist, another rapper and two friends of the artist were arrested, according to Mrabet.
Yacoub’s case is remarkably similar to that of Moroccan rapper Mouad Belghouat, who last year served a year in prison for insulting police with his song “Dogs of the State.”
Tunisia under former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was a police state in which security forces were widely reviled.
Tunisians overthrew the government in January 2011 in an uprising that sparked off pro-democracy movements around the region.
Police are still widely mistrusted even under a new elected government.