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Femen topless activists appeal Tunisian jail sentence


Three European women appeared in a Tunis court on Friday to appeal a four-month jail sentence for indecency and attacking public morals after they staged a topless protest in the capital to support a detained Tunisian Femen activist.


The appeal of three European activists with the women's topless protest group Femen, jailed for baring their breasts in Tunis, opened Friday with the defence hoping for a verdict later in the day.

The hearing began mid-morning with the judge recalling the facts of the case in the presence of the defendants, who were dressed in the traditional Tunisian veil, or safsari.

Earlier one of the women's lawyers, Souhaib Bahri, told AFP he expected the court to reach a decision during the day.

He said the three women, two French and one German, jailed on June 12 for an attack on public morals and indecency, had benefited from an accelerated appeals process. Appeals normally involve a delay of four to six months.

"It's a good sign, of course, this swift process. I'm optimistic but I want to wait for the verdict. The first time I was too optimistic and we had a shock," Bahri said.

He was referring to the four-month jail sentences handed down to the defendants, which were considered harsh in Europe, where the case was seen by some as a test of democratic freedoms under Tunisia's Islamist-led government which came to power after the revolution of January 2011.

France, Germany and the European Union have all expressed regret at the severity of the sentences.

The three women were arrested on May 29 for staging their controversial demonstration outside the central courthouse in Tunis in support of Amina Sboui, a detained Tunisian activist from the same radical women's group.

Sboui was arrested for painting the word "Femen" on a wall near a cemetery in Kairouan last month, in protest against a planned gathering of radical Salafists in the historic Muslim centre of learning south of Tunis.

She remains in custody while a judge rules on whether she should face charges of indecency and desecrating a cemetery.



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