Tunisians jailed for Facebook cartoons of Prophet

TUNIS Fri Apr 6, 2012 6:27am IST

Related Topics

TUNIS (Reuters) - Two young Tunisians have been sentenced to seven years in prison for posting cartoons of the prophet Mohammad on Facebook, in a case that has fueled allegations the country's new Islamist leaders are gagging free speech.

The two men had posted depictions of the prophet naked on the social networking site, the justice ministry said, inflaming sensitivities in a country where Muslim values have taken on a bigger role since a revolution last year.

"They were sentenced ... to seven years in prison for violation of morality, and disturbing public order," said Chokri Nefti, a justice ministry spokesman.

One of the two, Jabeur Mejri is in jail while the second, Ghazi Beji, is still being sought by police and was sentenced in absentia.

The sentence was handed down on March 28 but was not reported until Thursday, when bloggers started posting information about the case on the Internet.

"The sentences are very heavy and severe, even if these young people were at fault," one Tunisian blogger, Nebil Zagdoud, told Reuters.

"This decision is aimed at silencing freedom of expression even on the Internet. Prosecutions for offending morals are a proxy for this government to gag everyone."

Tunisia electrified the Arab world in January last year when protests forced its autocratic president, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, to flee the country. In their first democratic election, Tunisians elected a government led by moderate Islamists.

The revolution also brought tension between conservative Muslims who believe their faith should have a bigger role in public life, and secularists who say freedom of expression and women's' rights are now under attack.

The government says it has a duty to defend standards of public decency but its secularist opponents accuse it of using the justice system to crack down on anyone who does not fall into line with religious orthodoxy.

The head of a private television station, Nessma, is awaiting trial on blasphemy charges after his channel broadcast "Persepolis," an award-winning animated film that includes a depiction of Allah.

In February, Nassredine Ben Saida, the publisher of a tabloid newspaper, was jailed for eight days and fined after he printed a picture of a German-Tunisian footballer and his naked girlfriend on the front page.

(Editing by Christian Lowe and Todd Eastham)

FILED UNDER:

OBAMA INTERVIEW

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during an exclusive interview with Reuters in the Library of the White House in Washington March 2, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Exclusive - Nemtsov killing sign of worsening climate in Russia: Obama

President Barack Obama said on Monday that the killing of opposition figure Boris Nemtsov is a sign of a worsening climate in Russia where civil rights and media freedoms have been rolled back in the last several years.  Full Article 

Reuters Showcase

India Cricket Chief

India Cricket Chief

Former ICC boss Dalmiya returns as BCCI chief.  Full Article 

S&P on Budget

S&P on Budget

Budget shows commitment to keep fiscal deficit low - S&P.  Full Article 

Richie Rich

Richie Rich

Bill Gates tops Forbes rich list, Michael Jordan joins.  Full Article 

Mega Buy

Mega Buy

HP to buy Wi-Fi gear maker Aruba Networks for $2.7 bln.  Full Article 

Blogger's Murder

Blogger's Murder

Bangladesh says arrests main suspect in U.S. blogger Avijit Roy's killing.  Full Article 

Alleged Threats

Alleged Threats

Twitter, law enforcement investigate alleged Islamic State threats.  Full Article 

New Tour

New Tour

Pop icon Madonna announces dates for 'Rebel Heart' tour.  Full Article 

Lathmar Holi

In Pics: Lathmar Holi

Images of "Lathmar Holi" at Nandgaon in Uttar Pradesh.  Full Coverage 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage