Tunisia court sentences rapper over insults to government: lawyer

Reuters

TUNIS (Reuters) - A Tunisian court sentenced a local rap singer on Thursday to six months in jail for a song insulting the police and government in a case likely to fuel debate over free speech under the Islamist-led government, his lawyer said.

Critics say free expression has been threatened under the governing coalition led by the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, which won an election after a 2011 uprising ousted a secular dictatorship. The government rejects those accusations.

"Tunisian rapper Ahmed Ben Ahmed, known as Klay BBJ, has been sentenced to six months in jail for insulting the authorities in his songs," Ghazi Mrabet, his lawyer, told Reuters after the decision.

He said the sentencing related to songs performed insulting the government and the police at a Tunisian festival.

Last July, a Tunisian court released a rap singer named Wled 15, who was detained after he described police as dogs in one video.

Critics have accused Ennahda authorities of encouraging intolerance for secular views and lifestyles by failing to prevent militant Islamist Salafi attacks on certain cultural institutions and individuals.

Hardline Salafis disrupted several concerts and plays last year, saying they violated Islamic principles. They also ransacked the U.S. Embassy in September 2012 during worldwide Muslim protests over an internet video.

The North African nation, which started the 2011 "Arab Spring" revolts, has been caught in a political deadlock since July between Ennahda and its secular opponents who want the government to step down and make way for elections.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Patrick Markey and Peter Cooney)

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