Tunisia: Release FEMEN Activist Held On Politically Motivated Charges

By Amnesty International

Today’s decision by a Tunisian court to dismiss a defamation case against the 18-year-old FEMEN activist Amina Sboui is only a partial victory, Amnesty International said as it called for her release.

Amina was arrested on 19 May after writing the word ‘Femen’ – the name of an international network of feminist activists famous for staging topless protests – on a cemetery wall in Kairouan in central Tunisia. Held since then, she has faced an array of charges including defamation, insulting a civil servant and desecrating a cemetery.

‘Imprisoning anyone for expressing themselves is inherently disproportionate. The fact that Amina has already spent two months in prison is an indictment of the state of free expression in Tunisia,’ said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

‘We believe the case against her constitutes a politically motivated attack on her right to freedom of expression and that she should be released.’

Two weeks after her arrest, on 30 May, Amina was fined after being convicted of possessing a can of pepper spray. But she remained in custody on additional charges including ‘desecrating a cemetery’, ‘belonging to a criminal organization’ and ‘undermining public morals’.

Two of these charges were dropped earlier this month, but Amina still faces a prison sentence of up to two years if she is convicted on the remaining charge of ‘desecrating a cemetery’. The prosecution has also sought to reinstate the dropped charges, with an appeals court due to decide on the matter on 1 August.

‘The Tunisian authorities have resorted to blatant intimidation tactics against Amina. By keeping her in custody, they are seeking to make an example of her case to deter others from speaking out or criticizing the authorities,’ Philip Luther said.

On 10 July, Amina’s lawyers learnt that new charges were brought against her – including defamation and ‘insulting a civil servant exercising his duties’, which was also dropped today. The prosecution may appeal the decision.

The fresh charges arose after four prison guards claimed Amina insulted them when she intervened on behalf of another detainee.

‘No one should be detained for criticizing public officials or for expressing their views, even if others may find them offensive, ‘indecent’ or ‘harmful to public morals’,’ said Philip Luther.

Amina Sboui, who is also known as Amina Tyler, shot to fame in March 2013 after she posted a topless photograph of herself on her Facebook page.

Courtesy of Modern Ghana Editor’s Note:
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Justice Needed in Tunisia after Second Political Murder This Year


(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – The Tunisian authorities must deliver justice to stem a worrying tide of political violence, Amnesty International said after Mohamed Brahmi was shot dead outside his home in Tunis today. Brahmi was the leader of the Tunisian leftist opposition party the Popular Current (Courant Populaire, El Tayyar El Chaabi), a member of the National Constituent Assembly, and a critical voice against the current ruling party Ennahda.

His murder, which occurred on the anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Tunisia, comes just months after another opposition leader, Chokri Belaid, was shot dead in February – sending shockwaves through Tunisian society and prompting the resignation of the then-Prime Minister.

“The targeting of a member of the National Constituent Assembly is a blow to the rule of law in Tunisia,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa deputy director at Amnesty International. “A truly independent and impartial investigation into the killing must be immediately opened. Delivering justice for these two killings and other violent attacks against individuals must be an urgent priority in Tunisia.”

So far, little has been done by authorities to ensure that attacks against members of the opposition are thoroughly investigated and those responsible are brought to justice – fueling a climate of impunity and increasing political polarization. There is an ongoing judicial investigation into Belaid’s murder, with some suspects in custody, but no one has yet been tried for the crime.

“The Tunisian authorities have a duty to protect all individuals, including those who criticize the government or Tunisia’s leading Ennahda party, from violence, and to act against individuals and groups who commit acts of violence, regardless of their affiliation,” said Hadj Sahraoui. “As Tunisians take to the streets to protest Mohamed Brahmi’s killing, we urge the security forces to refrain from unnecessary or excessive use of force and to ensure that people can express their views peacefully and freely.”

The Tunisian authorities have failed to respond to Amnesty International’s request for clarification about the steps taken to dismantle groups linked to attacks against politicians or dissenting voices.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists, and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth, and dignity are denied.

contact: Amnesty International http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/press-releases/justice-needed-in-tunisia-after-second-political-murder-this-year