Tunisia rappers, journalist charged over trial unrest
A Tunisian court on Monday charged two musicians and a journalist implicated in violence that erupted last week at the trial of a rapper who was controversially jailed for two years for insulting the police. Aymen Feki and Moustapha Fakhfakh, and French-Tunisian journalist Hind Meddeb, who was not in court having fled the country on Sunday, are to be tried on October 7 for abusing public officials in the course of duty, and attacks on public morals, according to their lawyer.
The charges carry possible prison terms of one year and six months respectively. The judge allowed the two musicians to go free ahead of their trial, while four other rappers summoned by the prosecutor on Monday were not charged. All seven were arrested on Thursday when clashes with the police erupted outside the Tunis court where Ala Yaacoub, better known by his rap name “Weld El 15,” was jailed for aggressively insulting the police in a song.
“It is relatively good news,” their lawyer Ghazi Mrabet told AFP after the hearing at the court in the Tunis suburb of Ben Arous where Yaacoub was convicted. Meddeb, the journalist, left for France on Sunday evening because “she feared for her physical safety,” Mrabet added. In a statement obtained by AFP, Meddeb said she left the country because she had lost “faith” in Tunisia “where, because of a song, a rapper is imprisoned for two years.” Yaacoub was handed a two year jail term in absentia in March over his song “The Police are Dogs,” and was retried last week after he came out of hiding and handed himself in, in the hope of getting a more lenient sentence.
The new verdict infuriated his supporters who had come to the trial and in the clashes that broke out afterwards some of them, as well as several journalists present, were badly beaten by the police. Mrabet said on Monday that the jailed rapper “is in a bad state, his morale is rock bottom,” adding that he had appealed against the sentence and was waiting for the date of a new trial to be set. Last week’s court ruling was also strongly criticised by Tunisia’s political opposition and by human rights groups as an attack on freedom of speech.
The secular opposition frequently accuses the government led by Islamist party Ennahda of manipulating the judiciary to muzzle free speech and of seeking to impose Islamic values on Tunisian society. Several cases relating to the freedom of expression have sparked outrage in the north African country since Ennahda’s rise to power after the January 2011 revolution that toppled former strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Students Protest Fuel-Price Hike
Students across the capital rallied and closed down some streets following the government’s announcement of a hike in the price of subsidized fuel on Friday. Hundreds of students from the National University (Unas) in South Jakarta demonstrated against the decision in front of their campus in Pasar Minggu, while groups closed down Jalan Sawo Manila in Pasar Minggu and blocked traffic by burning tires. The demonstration took a violent turn when the students started to throw dozens of molotov cocktails and rocks at police officers guarding the demonstration. “Two of our officers sustained minor injuries from rocks,”Pasar Minggu police chief Comr. Adri Desas Fuyanto said.
One student, identified as Reza, also sustained a head injury during the demonstration. Ferry Agus Setiawan, the organizer of the protest, was unrepentant. “We will not stop voicing our opposition for Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his regime who have raised the fuel price,” he said. “We urge all Indonesian students to come and join the fight because this policy will make a lot of Indonesians suffer.” The protest began forming at around 10 p.m. on Friday and gathered momentum into the early hours, with protesters refusing to comply with police requests to bring the demonstration to an end.
While the pleas of armed law enforcers fell on deaf ears, the demonstration was eventually brought to a close after irate local residents came out and politely asked the students to keep the noise down. “Please act with intelligence, don’t force your beliefs on other people,” Khadir, a local resident said to students. “Let’s have a discussion. And stop using violence, please.” In Lenteng Agung, South Jakarta, hundreds of students from the Institute of Political and Social Science (IISIP) came out on Friday night. They blocked the main road connecting Jakarta to Depok by burning down tires, which blocked traffic until early Saturday morning.
South Jakarta police chief, Comr.Sr.Wahyu Hadiningrat, said he had tried to persuade the students to go home, again to no avail. Dozens of officers were assigned to the demonstration and officers eventually used tear gas to push the students back.
Suspected Kuki militants killed in encounter in Manipur
At least six suspected Kuki militants who may be members of the Kuki National Front (KNF) were gunned down in a fierce gun battle with security forces at Kangchup Shonglung, 30 km from Imphal lasting from Saturday evening till Sunday noon. However another report says that the dead militants may be members of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) which operates in Nagaland and other Naga inhabited areas in neighbouring NE states.
Four AK 47 rifles, one M-16 rifle and one A-3 rifle along with some rounds of ammunition were recovered from the slain militants. Three other militants are believed to have escaped. Since the encounter took place about 30 km away from Imphal deep in the high mountains the dead bodies cannot be brought out as yet with the result that the dead bodies cannot be identified. It is also not definitely known whether they were cadres of the KNF or the NSCN(K).
Security forces have been receiving intelligence information about the presence of armed militants in Kangchup areas for a long time. Once it was learnt that some armed militants were sighted in the vicinity, personnel of Loktak Brigade, Para Troopers and 10 Assam Rifles had stalked the village and cordoned off the nearby areas on Saturday evening. The militants were reported to have opened fire at the security personnel first. There was retaliatory fire from the security personnel. All six militants were believed to have been killed sometime on Sunday morning.