French court to rule on rap group

An appeals court in northern France was expected to rule Wednesday on the Interior Ministry's claim that French rap group Sniper incited violence against police in a song. The ministry says the four members of Sniper broke the law and incited attacks on police and ministers by performing the song "La France" during a concert in April 2004. The court in Rouen acquitted the rappers in June, but the ministry appealed.

In the initial ruling, the court said that although the song contained violent lyrics, they should be placed in context and understood as part of rap's provocative attitude.

The group's lawyer, Dominique Tricaud, said he was unsure how the recent rioting in France, where young people from troubled neighborhoods burned cars and threw stones at riot police, might affect the case.

"Rap songs are a barometer of social realities," Tricaud said. "Rappers did not cause the riots. They sing about unemployment and discrimination. To stop them from telling these stories is like wanting to break the barometer." Tricaud added that Sniper's members "are confident in their country's judicial system."

In a separate case, a conservative French lawmaker who says that violent rap songs stoked the rioting has asked the government to take legal action against rap musicians.

Francois Grosdidier, a lawmaker from President Jacques Chirac's ruling UMP party, began his drive against hate lyrics earlier this year, before the riots that erupted in depressed suburbs. He now claims the support of 200 colleagues in parliament.

The violence that started Oct. 27 and lasted for three weeks was France's worst civil unrest since student and worker protests in 1968.

Youths, mostly from housing projects in poor suburbs, torched some 9,000 vehicles over three weeks of arson attacks, rioting and other unrest that prompted the government to declare a state of emergency, allowing the use of curfews and other measures to stop the mayhem, reports the AP. I.L.

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