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Morocco: Activist Rapper Freed

This post is part of our special coverage Morocco Protests.

Mouad Belghouat aka “Al Haked” (The Indignant), a 24-year-old Moroccan rap artist and outspoken critic of Morocco's monarchy, was released on Thursday from prison, where he had been held since last September.

Mouad was officially charged with assaulting a pro-regime protester but his supporters claim the charges were trumped up in an attempt to silence growing discontent. His lawyers repeated bail requests were rejected by the judge, who adjourned the trial six times.

The rapper is one of the most recognizable figures of the leaderless pro-democracy February 20 Movement, the local extension of the so-called Arab spring.

In reaction to the movement's regular protests, King Mohammed VI introduced a series of constitutional amendments in July prompting early legislative elections in November which put the Islamist PJD party at the helm of the government. But the youth-based movement vowed to continue its protests, denouncing high-profile corruption, political arrests and a monarchy that still enjoys extensive executive powers.

The announcement of Mouad's release on Thursday spread like fire on Facebook and Twitter. Several Al Haked supporters rushed to the Okacha prison in Casablanca to welcome him. A defiant Mouad walked out of prison shouting “long live the people”.

Larbi, who campaigned for the release of Mouad, shares the first pictures of the freed rapper:

Picture by Omar Radi, shared on Twitter by @Larbi_org

Shortly after his release, the rapper returned to the stage. In an improvised concert in his neighborhood, he performed in tune with a jubilant crowd of supporters (video posted by direlibghiti):

Omar Radi describes the scene [fr]:

Les gamins du quartier chantent par choeur avec #Freehaked. Concert improvisé, sono pourrie, mais tout le monde est joyeux.

The children in the neighborhood are singing in tune with #Freehaked. Improvised concert, poor sound, but everyone is happy.

Aida Alami was also there. She tweets:

Mouad on the stage… Big celebration in mouad's neighborhood to celebrate his new freedom

Hasna Ankal thinks activists should capitalize on their “success” and call on the release of more “political prisoners.” She shares this poster on Twitter:

Al Haked is Free, Now Free Everyone – Posted by Hasna Ankal

When on Thursday, the judge decided to release Mouad, the efforts led by activists seemed to have finally paid off. For months they ran a consistent campaign both online, through their website, Facebook page and Twitter accounts, and offline, organizing press conferences and sit-ins, rallying more supporters and prominent public figures around their cause.

But Thursday's court ruling remains a “bittersweet victory” for activists like Maria Karim, who was at the forefront of the Free Haked campaign. The judge in fact pronounced [fr] the rapper guilty of assault on a royalist supporter, but decided to release him because he served his sentence of four months.

This post is part of our special coverage Morocco Protests.

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