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Last Updated:  Friday, 7 March, 2003, 04:36 GMT
Moroccan heavy metal fans jailed
The judge revealed curious attitudes
More than a dozen heavy metal musicians and fans have been jailed in Casablanca for moral and religious crimes, local media reported.

The 14 men, all between the ages of 22 and 35, were convicted of "acts capable of undermining the faith of a Muslim" and "possessing objects which infringe morals".

Their sentences of between one month and one year followed newspaper pieces which dubbed them "Satanists" involved in international devil-worship.

Nine of the convicted men were in three Moroccan heavy metal groups Nekros, Infected Brain and Reborn.

Young people are by essence subversive and like to shock
Driss Ksikes
The case has highlighted concerns that the country's authorities are totally out of touch with young people.

French-language weekly magazine TelQuel particularly rounded on the judge for saying "normal people go to concerts in a suit and tie", not a black T-shirt with heavy-metal symbols that the court saw.

The judge was also pilloried for being suspicious that one of those convicted preferred to write English song lyrics.

Driss Ksikes, chief editor at TelQuel magazine, said: "Morocco's young people will not feel at home in their own country.

"Our judicial system needs psychologists if they don't understand that young people are by essence subversive and like to shock."

The sentences were also condemned by friends, families and teachers, who said older establishment figures were unable to understand this particular area of youth culture.

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 harsh sentences will also raise concerns among many in Morocco at a time when there are also fears that Islamist politicians are becoming stronger.

Journalist's anger

Morocco's legal system allows a maximum sentence of three years for trying to convert a Muslim to another faith.

The investigation into the men is said to have been sparked by an interview with a 21-year-old female heavy metal fan printed in the weekly As-Sahifa last July.

Journalist Nourredine Ben Malik said he opposed the sentences utterly.

"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."

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