Tunisian actress Sabrine Klibi and music video director Mohamed Hedi Belgueyed were taken into custody on Sunday after they released a video on March 3 for Tunisian Weld El 15’s song “Cops Are Dogs.”
Calling someone a dog in the Arab world is considered one of the most severe insults. Insulting or verbally or physically harassing a civil servant is a crime in Tunisia, Asma Ghabri, a lawyer and professor at Tunis law school, told Tunisia Live.
The lyrics to the video include phrases like “Police, magistrates, I’m here to tell you one thing, you dogs; I’ll kill police instead of sheep; give me a gun I’ll shoot them.”
The Tunisian minister of the Interior announced the arrests on Facebook Tuesday, and said the two suspects were scheduled to appear before a court for the first time the same day.
The Facebook post explained that the video “has words and gestures that are unethical, abusive and threatening towards security forces and magistrates,” AFP translated.
Weld El 15 is wanted by the police for hate speech and incitement to violence and murder, Tunisia Live said. The police are also looking for five other people who they say are connected with the video.
Weld El 15 himself has taken full responsibility for the video, Al-Akhbar reported, and said Klibi and Belgueyed had nothing to do with “the content of the song.” “I wasn’t calling for violence against the police, [I was] just expressing my point of view,” he said to the blog Nawaat. “The current injustice in the country is what inspired this song. All I want is for security forces to respect the people.”
“I would not throw stones,” Weld El 15 said. “I expressed my opinion, thinking there is freedom of expression. It turns out I am mistaken. Before, we were afraid to speak and risk prison. Now, after the revolution, I am going to jail for expressing my opinion.”
Weld El 15 was previously arrested, along with two other rappers, in February 2012 over drug charges, Al-Akhbar said.
Tunisian activists have decried the arrests as “counter to the democratic aims” of Tunisia’s 2011 revolution.
— Youssef Cherif (@Faiyla) March 11, 2013
One Facebook commenter pointed out that “If the police in America, for example, stopped all of the songs against them, they would have stopped what we call 'rap' in the first place.”
Several other Facebook pages have been launched in support of the detainees.
Maya covers the U.N., Europe, and the Middle East for IBTimes. She joined the company in July 2012 after having previously worked with DNAinfo.com and Gawker.