Tunisia`s chief backs conviction for Islam insult

Last Updated: Saturday, April 7, 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.

PTI



First Published: Saturday, April 7, 2012 - 14:09

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