Africa

Femen activists jailed in Tunisia for topless protest

  • 12 June 2013
  • From the section Africa
A Femen protester takes part in a demonstration in support of activist Amina Tyler outside a courthouse in Tunisia
Femen activists demonstrated outside a court in support of Amina Tyler on 29 May

Three European feminists have been sentenced to four months in prison in Tunisia for staging a topless protest.

A judge convicted the two French women and a German woman after they were charged with public indecency.

They were arrested after protesting for the release of fellow activist Amina Tyler, who has been charged with carrying an "incendiary object" in May.

The women all belong to Ukrainian feminist group Femen, which staged its first such protest in the Arab world.

A moderate Islamist-led government won democratic elections in Tunisia following the overthrow of the secular regime of long-serving ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.

'Sexual exploitation'

During their trial on Wednesday, the women - Pauline Hillier, Marguerite Stern and Josephine Markmann - argued that there was nothing sexual or offensive about their protest in the capital, Tunis, on 29 May, AP news agency reports.

Instead, they maintained that their protest was only to support their imprisoned colleague Ms Tyler, it reports.

However, a court "condemned the three Femen activists to four months and one day in prison for an attack on public morals and indecency", their lawyer, Souheib Bahri, told the AFP news agency.

The women had waved banners and displayed messages on their bare chests to show solidarity with Ms Tyler.

She was prosecuted after reportedly writing "Femen" on a wall in the religious centre of Kairouan.

She outraged some Tunisians in March by posting photos of herself topless with the slogan "my body is my own" written on her torso.

Femen describes itself as "fighting patriarchy in its three manifestations - sexual exploitation of women, dictatorship and religion".

Its action in Tunisia is set against the background of tensions following the overthrow of Ben Ali, whose regime enforced secularism in Tunisia.

There has since been an increase in the prominence of ultra-conservative Islamists known as Salafists, who campaign for greater public piety in Tunisia.

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