Responding to news that a Moroccan court has today convicted the rapper Mohamed Mounir - widely known as Gnawi - for insulting public officials, sentencing him to a year in prison, Heba Morayef, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Director, said:
"This is a disgraceful verdict.
"There can be no justification for imprisoning the Moroccan rapper Gnawi for a year simply because he exercised his right to freedom of expression.
"The Moroccan authorities must quash his conviction and order his immediate and unconditional release.
"Expressing peaceful criticism of the police or the authorities is not a crime. International law protects the right to freedom of expression - even when the opinions shared are shocking or offensive.
"This verdict sends a clear message that the Moroccan authorities will not hesitate to clamp down on people who freely speak their minds and indicates that those who dare to openly criticise the authorities will face punishment."
Arrest was days after release of music video
Gnawi was arrested on 1 November and later charged with "offending" public officials and public bodies over a video in which he insults the police. His arrest came days after he released a music video for the song "Aâcha El Chaâb" (Long live the people), in which he criticises the Moroccan authorities and indirectly makes a derogatory reference to the Moroccan king. This raises suspicions that Gnawi's arrest was linked to the music video, which has been viewed more than nine million times and gained international attention.
In Morocco, insulting the king is a criminal offence.