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Tunisia: FEMEN activist Amina is victim of 'politically-motivated' attack by authorities

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

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 and the overall case against her is “politically-motivated”, said Amnesty International today as it called for her immediate release.

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

On 30 May Amina was fined after being convicted of possessing a can of pepper spray, but remained in custody on additional charges including “desecrating a cemetery”, “belonging to a criminal organisation” and “undermining public morals”. Though two of these charges were dropped earlier this month, Amina still faces a prison sentence of up to two years if convicted on the remaining “desecrating a cemetery” charge. The prosecution has also sought to reinstate the dropped charges, with an appeals court due to decide on the matter this Thursday.

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Director Philip Luther said:

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

“The fact that Amina has already spent two months in prison is an indictment of the state of free expression in Tunisia.

“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 criticising the authorities.

“No one should be detained for criticising public officials or for expressing their views, even if others may find them offensive, ‘indecent’ or ‘harmful to public morals’.”

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

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