Alert: Nasheed Artist Rachid Ghoulam on Hunger Strike following Arrest

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IHRC calls on all campaigners to contact the Foreign Office and the Moroccan Embassy to protest the spurious charges against prominent Moroccan nasheed (religious songs) artist, Rachid Ghoulam.

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Islamic Human Rights Commission
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06 April 2007


Alert: Nasheed Artist Rachid Ghoulam on Hunger Strike following Arrest


IHRC calls on all campaigners to contact the Foreign Office and the Moroccan Embassy to protest the spurious charges against prominent Moroccan nasheed (religious songs) artist, Rachid Ghoulam who is also a member of Al Adl wa Al Ihsan aka the Justice and Spirituality Movement (JSM).


Contents

1) Summary
2) Background
3) Action required
4) Sample Letters


1. Summary

Rachid Ghoulam is a popular nasheed (religious songs) artist in Morocco and is also a spiritual educationalist for Al Adl wa Al Ihsan, the Justice and Spirituality Movement (JSM), a grassroots non-violent Islamic movement based in Morocco. Rachid was recently charged and convicted of encouraging moral corruption and prostitution and sentenced to one month imprisonment with a fine of 1000 dirhams (60 pounds approx.).

Rachid has categorically denied the charges against him testifying that he was kidnapped by the police, stripped naked and tortured. He was then forced to pose with a prostitute while the police took pictures. The police demanded that he reveal information about the finances and activities of JSM. When he refused, the police went public with his pictures and brought him to court to be charged.

Convincing evidence has been produced by his defence team, such as the testimony of the prostitute who admitted that she and Rachid were forced to pose together.

Rachid has gone on hunger strike to protest against the conviction and has vowed not to eat till he is cleared if all charges.


1. Background

Rachid Ghoulam (aka Rachid Moutchou or Gholam Nakib Chouaba) is a 25-year-old popular nasheed artist in the Middle East. He is also a spiritual educationalist for Al Adl wa Al Ihsan, the Justice and Spirituality Movement (JSM). He began his career at the age of 13 in Casablanca and then moved on to singing religious songs after joining JSM. He was due to travel to Egypt to perform in the Mawlid (celebration of the Prophet pbuh's birthday) scheduled for 1 April 2007 at the Cairo Opera House.

However, he was captured by the police and charged with adultery. But according to Rachid's lawyer, Issam Brahimi, he was set up by the police to discredit JSM.

According to Rachid, he was seized by the police on 25 March 2007 from his home in Casablanca and taken to a forest in El Jadida where he was stripped naked, beaten and tortured. He was subjected to electric shocks all over his body including his private parts. The police then took him to a brothel and forced him to pose with a prostitute to have his pictures taken with her. They then threatened to destroy his reputation and career with the pictures unless he gave them information about the finances and activities of JSM. However, he refused to divulge any information. Consequently, the police leaked the details of the arrest and the case to the media in advance of the trial. As regards to disclosing the arrest details to the media, Rachid's lawyer stated that the police had \"violated the confidentiality of the investigation, which invalidates all further actions by the prosecution.\"

Rachid was then brought to court in El Jadida and charged with adultery on 27 April 2007. His wife, however, defended him and testified that she believed that he was not cheating on her. Hence the adultery charge against him was withdrawn the next day and he was charged with encouraging moral corruption and prostitution. Hundreds of JSM supporters held a demonstration outside the courthouse on 28 March 2007 to protest against Rachid's arrest.

On 30 March 2007, fifty lawyers defended Rachid's case for twelve hours. In the court he revealed that he had applied for a visa to Cairo a month before the Mawlid celebrations, which was initially denied to him after pressure from the Moroccan governmentl. When a number of other artists from Cairo lobbied in his favor, the Egyptian authorities reversed their decision and issued him a visa. He believes that his arrest was a reaction to this aforementioned incident.

The prostitute, Asmaa Rkik, bore witness in favour of Rachid and denied having any relationship with him. She revealed that the police had forced her and Rachid to pose together. The only witnesses against him are the police and security services who were involved in his arrest. The judge presiding over the trial was also convinced of Rachid's innocence.

However, Rachid's claims of being beaten were categorically denied by the medical examination ordered by the court. The court also disallowed any independent authority to investigate the torture. Further, an official from the Justice Ministry stated that evidence of Rachid's guilt exists. Therefore, both he and Asmaa were convicted on charges of encouraging adultery and were sentenced to one month in jail on 30 March 2007. Both of them have a right of appeal in 10 days and must also pay 1000 dirhams (60 pounds) each. After the sentence was announced, Rachid stated in court that he was innocent and that he would go on hunger strike until his innocence is proved or he dies a martyr.

An independent newspaper As Sahifa stated while commenting on the court sentence, \"We are facing two contradictory versions…The state was the first to politicise the affair...and the target was not the person named but the Islamist association which is not on good terms with the authorities.\"

Further, one of the JSM's leaders, Hassan Bennajeh, stated that Rachid's case was the latest in a series of campaigns against the group by the Moroccan authorities. He said, \"The authorities think its worth harming the honour of a member of the association, which calls for respect for moral values.\"

Rachid has been arrested several times in the past for holding 'illegal gatherings' (religious gatherings of remembrance - zikr) which the JSM organizes regularly all over Morocco. He was charged in court for holding such gatherings on 6 October 2006 and was fined. About hundred lawyers signed up to defend him - a record in Morocco. Rachid is currently banned on all TV and radio channels in Morocco. About a hundred of his nasheed events have not been allowed to take place and more than once he has been denied the right to travel to perform abroad.

For further information on the Al Adl wa Al Ihsan, the Justice and Spirituality Movement (JSM), please see the IHRC Prisoner of Faith campaign pack at the link below.

http://www.ihrc.org.uk/file/PFMoroccon%20StudentsFinal.pdf


2. Action Required

a. Write to the Head of Mission of the Moroccan Embassy, Mr Mohammed Belmahi and urge him to ensure that a proper investigation is launched into the allegations against Rachid Ghoulam.

HE Mr Mr Mohammed Belmahi
Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco
49 Queen\'s Gate Gardens
London SW7 5NE

Fax: +44 0207 225 3862
Email: mail@sifamaldn.org

b. Write to the Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett to make representations to her Moroccan counterparts to ensure that a proper investigation is launched into the allegations against Rachid Ghoulam.

Rt. Hon. Margaret Beckett MP
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London
SW1A 2AH

Fax: +44 0207 839 2417
Email: private.office@fco.gov.uk


4. Sample Letters

Sample letter is given below for your convenience


Sample Letter to Mr Mohammed Belmahi

[Your Name]
[Your Address]


[Date]


HE Mr Mohammed Belmahi
Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco
49 Queen\'s Gate Gardens
London SW7 5NE


Dear Mr Mohammed Belmahi,

Re: Allegation of Adultery against Moroccan Artist Rachid Ghoulam

I am writing to request you to ensure that a proper investigation is launched into the charges of adultery against nasheed artist Rachid Ghoulam.

Mr Ghoulam was sentenced to one month imprisonment and fined a charge of 1000 dirhams on 30 March 2007 after being convicted of adultery.

But according to Mr Ghoulam's testimony, he was kidnapped by Moroccan security officials in Casablanca, stripped naked, tortured and subjected to electric shocks. He was then forced to pose with a prostitute while they took pictures. The police then demanded that he reveal information about the finances and activities of Al Adl wa Al Ihsan. When he refused, the police went public with his pictures and brought him to court in El Jadida to be charged.

Mr Ghoulam was initially charged with adultery but when his wife testified that she believed he was innocent, the court withdrew this charge and charged him again with encouraging moral corruption and prostitution.

In the trial that followed, the prostitute, Asmaa Rkik, bore witness that she and Mr Ghoulam were forced to pose together. Yet this statement was ignored by the judge. Further, Mr Ghoulam's claims of being beaten were categorically denied by the medical examination ordered by the court. The court also denied any independent authority to investigate allegations of torture.

Mr Ghoulam has been on hunger strike to protest against the conviction and has vowed not to eat anything till the charges have been cleared.

Mr Ghoulam has been arrested several times before for holding 'illegal gatherings' (gatherings of zikr) and has been denied to hold his nasheed shows in Morocco and to travel abroad to perform.

I request you to ensure that an inquiry is launched into the potential misconduct of the police officials involved in this case and to take disciplinary action against those found guilty. Also please ensure that Mr Ghoulam's rights are respected and that he is offered a fair trial to investigate the allegations against him. If he is not found guilty, he must be released without delay.

I look forward to hearing from you soon on this urgent matter,


Yours Sincerely,


[Your Signature]

[Your Name]


Sample Letter to Margaret Beckett

[Your Name]
[Your Address]


[Date]


Rt. Hon. Margaret Beckett MP
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London
SW1A 2AH


Dear Ms Margaret Beckett,

Re: Allegation of Adultery against Moroccan Artist Rachid Ghoulam

I am writing to request you to ensure that a proper investigation is launched into the charges of adultery against nasheed (religious songs) artist Rachid Ghoulam.

Mr Ghoulam was sentenced to one month imprisonment and fined a charge of 1000 dirhams on 30 March 2007 after being convicted of adultery.

But according to Mr Ghoulam's testimony, he was kidnapped by Moroccan security officials in Casablanca, stripped naked, tortured and subjected to electric shocks. He was then forced to pose with a prostitute while they took pictures. The police then demanded that he reveal information about the finances and activities of the Moroccan movement that he is a member of, Al Adl wa Al Ihsan (The Justice and Spirituality Movement – JSM). When he refused, the police went public with his pictures and brought him to court in El Jadida to be charged.

Mr Ghoulam was initially charged with adultery but when his wife testified that she believed he was innocent, the court withdrew this charge and charged him again with encouraging moral corruption and prostitution.

In the trial that followed, the prostitute, Asmaa Rkik, bore witness that she and Mr Ghoulam were forced to pose together. Yet this statement was ignored by the judge. Further, Mr Ghoulam's claims of being beaten were categorically denied by the medical examination ordered by the court. The court also denied any independent authority to investigate allegations of torture.

Mr Ghoulam has been on hunger strike to protest against the conviction and has vowed not to eat anything till the charges have been cleared.

Mr Ghoulam has been arrested several times before for holding 'illegal gatherings' (religious gatherings of remembrance) and has been denied to hold his nasheed shows in Morocco and to travel abroad to perform.

I request you to make representations to your Moroccan counterparts to ensure that an inquiry is launched into the potential misconduct of the police officials involved in this case and to take disciplinary action against those found guilty. Also please ensure that Mr Ghoulam's rights are respected and that he is offered a fair trial to investigate the allegations against him. If he is not found guilty, he must be released without delay.

I look forward to hearing from you soon on this matter,


Yours Sincerely,


[Your Signature]

[Your Name]




For more information, please contact the office on the numbers or email below:

Islamic Human Rights Commission
PO Box 598
Wembley
HA9 7XH
United Kingdom

Telephone (+44) 20 8904 4222
Fax (+44) 20 8904 5183
Email: info@ihrc.org
Web: www.ihrc.org.uk

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