Moroccan rapper gets year in prison for critical video

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In this Friday, Nov. 22, 2019 photo, Moroccan rapper Abdelkrim Bouhjir, known as Kouz1, performs at a rap concert as part of the Visa for Music festival in Rabat, Morocco. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

FES – Moroccan rapper Gnawi knew the police would come when he and two friends released an unusually outspoken video exposing their country’s problems with migration and drugs and expressing frustration with the king.

And sure enough, they did.

Gnawi, a former military serviceman whose real name is Mohamed Mounir, was handed a one-year prison sentence Monday by a judge for insulting the police in a case that his supporters say is a backlash against growing public anger at authorities and over a lack of economic opportunity.

Moroccan authorities have said Gnawi’s arrest was prompted by an earlier video in which he insulted the police, a crime punishable by up to two years in prison.

The video he released with rappers Lz3er and Weld L'Griya featured the song “3acha cha3b” (“Long Live the People”). Released Oct. 29, it immediately went viral, and now has more than 15.5 million hits on YouTube.

The five-minute video rages against the powers-that-be and criticizes the country’s widening economic gap, a message aimed at the country’s disillusioned younger generation.

One passage of the song reflects on the Hirak protest movement in Morocco’s impoverished Rif mountain region. Another section profiles a mother whose sons died attempting to migrate to Europe, while another paints a picture of a young generation ruined by hashish and hard drugs.

Most shockingly to many Moroccans, the song also directly criticizes Morocco’s king and his adviser, a criminal offense.