Reuters, Mar. 7, 2003
RABAT (Reuters) – A court in Casablanca on Thursday handed out prison sentences ranging from one month to one year to 14 heavy metal music enthusiasts, the official MAP news agency reported.
The trial followed articles in some newspapers which described the accused as “Satanists” who recruited for an international cult of devil-worship.
The 14 men aged between 22 and 35 years were found guilty of “possessing objects which infringe morals” and of “acts capable of undermining the faith of a Muslim.”
Morocco’s penal code allows a maximum sentence of three years for attempting to convert a Muslim to another faith.
Nine of those sentenced are musicians in three Moroccan heavy metal groups: Nekros, Infected Brain and Reborn.
Parents, friends and college supervisors of those sentenced had argued that the case arose from a misunderstanding of the heavy metal sub-culture and should never have come to court.
Soumayah Kortbi, whose 31-year-old brother Ayoub Kortbi was sentenced to three months, said, “I am disappointed with justice in my country. It is as though the court did not take the trouble to find out the facts.”
The French-language weekly magazine TelQuel had ridiculed the judge’s remarks during the trial that “Normal people go to concerts in a suit and tie,” rather than in a black T-shirt with heavy-metal symbols which was shown to the court.
The judge also found suspicious the fact that one of the musicians chose to pen lyrics in English rather than Arabic. Journalist Nourredine Ben Malik, whose sensationalist interview with 21-year-old girl involved in the heavy metal scene in the weekly As-Sahifa last July helped trigger the police enquiry, was contrite following the sentencing. “I am against these sentences,” he told Reuters.
“There was no solid argument behind them, and I’ve signed a petition saying as much.
“These are just young people who like a certain kind of music. If there is a problem with their thinking it is not a matter for the courts but for their families, political parties and society.”
For some of Morocco’s francophone middle classes, the case set alarm bells ringing, against a background of rising electoral support for Morocco’s Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD).
In legislative elections last September, the PJD emerged as the third largest party in parliament, and it looks set likewise to gain ground in local elections in June.
PJD member of parliament Mustapha Ramid on January 23, before the trial began, asked parliament to have a concert by the three heavy metal groups banned.
The following month he criticized European and U.S. cultural centers operating in Rabat and Casablanca.
Driss Ksikes, chief editor at TelQuel magazine, said that with this verdict, “Morocco’s young people will not feel at home in their own country. I think our judicial system needs psychologists if they don’t understand that young people are by essence subversive and like to shock.”