Tunis — After spending 15 days at the civil prison in Grombalia, rapper Weld El 15 (real name Ala Yaacoubi) came out more confident to proceed with his music career.
In an exclusive interview with Magharebia, the young rapper said he was preparing to go to France to release a new album containing various songs, including tracks addressing the conditions of young people in prison.
"This page has been turned and I've learned a lot from that experience, including the album experience," Yaacoubi said. "My next album will include songs about all the details of prison life."
As to the four-month prison sentence he was handed on December 5th before being acquitted by an appeals court on December 19th, he said, "I didn't expect to be punished by imprisonment for a song. I also didn't expect the security syndicate to sue me; rather, I expected them to issue a statement refuting my song, in which case I would have accepted it whole-heartedly."
Speaking about the charge of using insulting words against policemen in his song, he said, "I didn't attack a certain policeman with my song; I didn't mention any particular name. I addressed a certain security category, i.e. the corrupt one."
"In my view, every professional sector in Tunisia includes a corrupt category, as none is infallible," Weld El 15 continued.
As to the period he spent in prison, especially as his lawyer expressed concerns about the potential for bad treatment, Yaacoubi said, "At the beginning, I was actually worried over my situation at prison, especially as those who supervise it are members of the security syndicate. I was afraid lest they should exact revenge."
"However, I was surprised with the civilised and humanitarian way they treated me. The prison ward was nice and polite, and I can't deny this. At the same time, I wasn't treated differently from the other prisoners," he continued.
"Don't forget that the court of appeal's decision to acquit me and abolish the four-month imprisonment sentence is a victory for justice and honest judges," he added.
His lawyer, Ghazi Mrabet, told Magharebia that Yaacoubi's acquittal was "a natural end and removal of injustice against my client who expressed an opinion and didn't engage in violence".
Meanwhile, Weld El 15 expressed his disappointment with the local media that ignored his case.
"I've received great support from my family, friends and a number of my colleagues, and from so many lovers of my art, and this is natural. However, what saddened me was that I found support from non-Tunisian media outlets, as foreign media significantly covered my case and said I was done injustice and defended my case. At the same time, a significant part of Tunisian media didn't care, as if freedom of expression and opinion doesn't concern them," he said.
Addressing the future, Yaacoubi said, "I'm now about to travel to France to prepare for my new album which will address issues directly related to the concerns of Tunisians, especially of young people. A major part of the album will be dedicated to prison life."
When asked why he chose France for his next career move, Yaacoubi said he did it to preserve his rights, namely financial.
"We as rappers suffer from lack of respect for intellectual property; there are several companies, websites and channels that have violated our rights and distributed our products without first consulting with us and without paying anything to us," he stated.
"I will forget past violations and will focus on defending my rights in the future," he added. "I will sue anyone who dares to violate my rights, and the French company that will produce my album will take care of that."