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Composer did not insult Islam: judge; [National Edition] Sultan Sleiman. National Post. Don Mills, Ont.: Dec 16, 1999. pg. B.2

(Copyright National Post 1999)

BEIRUT - A Beirut court has acquitted Marcel Khalife, a renowned Lebanese composer and singer, of charges of insulting Islam by including Koranic verses in a song.

Judge Ghada Abou Karroum ruled yesterday that Mr. Khalife, 49, did not commit any crime. She cleared him of all charges in a trial seen as a test case for freedom of expression in a country perceived as one of the most liberal in the region.

"The accused sang solemnly the holy Koranic verses, therefore, he did not insult the sanctity of Koran and neither did he incite any one to do so," she said. Her verdict can be appealed.

Mr. Khalife, a leftist who is one of the Arab world's most respected performers, said he was pleased with the verdict and thanked all his supporters.

"I am happy that the Lebanese judiciary acquitted itself of the charges of suppressing freedom ... and the arts," he said at Beirut airport while waiting for a flight to Tunisia.

"I thank all citizens of Lebanon, the Arab world and elsewhere, who by supporting my cause, were defending freedom, culture and art," he added.

The trial triggered a campaign of solidarity by Lebanese and Arab intellectuals.