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Tunisia: man jailed for smoking during Ramadan

Protesters in Tunis on Sunday calling for the right to eat and smoke in public during Ramadan © SOFIENNE HAMDAOUI/AFP/Getty Images

Four others in town of Bizerte jailed for eating in public during Ramadan

‘Failing to conform to religious and social customs is not a criminal offence’ - Heba Morayef

The Tunisian authorities’ jailing of five people on charges of “public indecency” after smoking a cigarette or eating in public during the month of Ramadan is a clear violation of individual freedoms, said Amnesty International.

In the latest incident, a man has been sentenced to a month in jail in the town of Bizerte, northwest of Tunis, for smoking outside a courthouse yesterday. He is the fifth person to be sentenced by the same court to a jail term for breaking his fast during the current Ramadan. Four other men were sentenced to a month in prison after eating in public on 1 June. 

There are no laws in Tunisia requiring individuals to fast or preventing them from eating publicly during Ramadan. On Sunday, dozens of protesters took to the streets in Tunis to demand their right not to fast during Ramadan. 

International human rights law and the Tunisian constitution both guarantee the right to freedom of conscience and the freedom of religion. Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which protects the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, also protects the right not to profess or practise any religion or belief. 

Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s North Africa Research Director, said:

“Imprisoning someone for smoking a cigarette or eating in public is an absurd violation of an individual’s personal freedoms.

“Failing to conform to religious and social customs is not a criminal offence.

“The Tunisian authorities should not allow vaguely-worded charges to be used to impose harsh sentences on spurious grounds.

“Everyone should have the right to follow their own beliefs in matters of religion and morality.” 


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