Tunisia`s chief backs conviction for Islam insult
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Last Updated: Saturday, April 07, 2012, 14:09
Tunis: Two men have been convicted and sentenced to prison in Tunisia for posting Facebook images of the Prophet Muhammad, a court decision that drew support from the presidency on Saturday.

Jaber Majeri and Ghazi Jribi were convicted on March 28 by a Tunisian court for "insulting the sacred" after they posted images of the Prophet. They were each sentenced to seven and a half years in prison and fined USD 800.

The verdict, which was made public yesterday, has been condemned by some as an attack on freedom of expression and a mark of the rising tide of religious conservatism in the country since a popular uprising ousted a dictator a year ago.

Since the fall of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, a moderate Islamist party Ennahda won elections in October but has promised not to enshrine Islamic law in the new constitution.

That has put it at odds with a vocal minority of hardline Muslims known as Salafis.

Tunisian society has become polarised between those demanding more religion in public life and those who want to preserve secular traditions.

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki was a noted human rights activist under the 23-year dictatorship of Ben Ali. His spokesman Adnan Mancer told a news agency today that "attacks on the sacred symbols of Muslims and Islam cannot be considered part of freedom of expression."

"We are a Muslim country and so are against those who insult religions," Mancer said. "It is a form of extremism which provokes more extremist reactions which we should avoid during this delicate period."

The two men were tried after a lawyer filed a lawsuit against them. Their defence attorney, Ahmed Msallemi, said the two deserved punishment, but that he found the verdict excessive.


First Published: Saturday, April 07, 2012, 14:09

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