Moroccan rapper Mouad Belghouat, aka Al-Haqed (The Rancorous One), jailed in July for a year for defaming the police, was on Saturday awarded a prize for integrity by NGO Transparency Morocco.
“This prize is awarded for his honesty and the justice of his fight for an integrated and transparent society,” said TM chief Mohammed Sadok, presenting the award to the singer's father.
Belghouat, 24, is considered to be a public face of the February 20 movement, born in 2011 during the Arab spring, which is demanding sweeping political reforms in Morocco.
He was first convicted in May last year over a song he wrote called “Dogs of the State,” which denounced police corruption and was deemed an affront to the entire police service.
During the trial, his defense team argued that the song was an artistic creation that should not draw punishment.
The main evidence against the rapper was a YouTube video containing a photo-montage of a policeman whose head had been replaced by that of a donkey.
According to Human Rights Watch, Belghouat denied any connection with the video other than that it was set to his song.
The New York-based HRW said the conviction “shows the gap between the strong free-expression language in Morocco’s 2011 constitution and the continuing intolerance for those who criticize state institutions.”
More than 70 activists from the February 20 movement are now in prison or awaiting trial, according to the independent Moroccan Association for Human Rights.