Continued from page 1

“We in Africa, we say that artists, musicians and singers are the eyes, ears, and mouths of the people,” he told The Associated Press, when asked about his views on the El-Haqed case.

Rachid el-Belghiti, who heads a national anti-Mawazine campaign, also contests the government’s assertion that it’s supporting culture in Morocco with this festival, countering that it’s really just about making the country look good abroad.

He said the Mawazine, which is run by a close confidant of King Mohammed VI, eats up the lion’s share of corporate sponsorship so that little is left for other festivals around the country.

As millions are being spent to lure in big name acts, local theaters and dance schools around the country are closing down because of a lack of funding.

“A country which puts its artists in prison simply for expressing themselves with their voice or their instruments cannot pretend to support culture,” he said. “That’s impossible.”