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Youths sentenced to seven years for Prophet caricatures

A Tunisian court has sentenced two youths to seven years in jail, one in absentia, for publishing caricatures of the Prophet on Facebook, the justice ministry said Thursday. Rights activists said the sentence was overly harsh.

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AFP - A Tunisian court has sentenced two youths to seven years in prison for publishing caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, the justice ministry said Thursday.

"They were sentenced, one of them in absentia, to seven years in prison, for transgressing morality, defamation and disrupting public order," ministry spokesman Chokri Nefti told AFP.

The sentences were handed down on March 28 and defence lawyers have appealed the decision.

One of the two young men was jailed but the other was not in court for the verdict. They are both from the town of Mahdia, around 200 kilometres (120 miles) south of Tunis.

Nefti said they had posted "cartoons depicting the Prophet in the nude... and slandering high-profile Tunisian figures" on their Facebook page.

"This sentence is much too harsh," rights activist Bochra Bel Haj Hmida told AFP, adding that she had petitioned the presidency over the matter.

"They are just two young graduates who thought they were free to say they are atheists and thought they were protected on Facebook," she added.

The number of trials on charges of transgressing morality has surged since the Islamist Ennahda party won Tunisia's first post-revolution elections in October.
 

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