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Tunisian court fails to review verdict in Muhammad cartoon case

By Afef Abrougui / 26 April 2013

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Tunisia’s Court of Cassation yesterday failed to review the seven-and-a-half year sentence of Jabeur Mejri, who was convicted last year of publishing cartoons of the prophet Muhammad on Facebook. Mejri’s lawyer, Mohammed Mselmi, told AFP that the demand for an appeal “was mysteriously withdrawn”, even though a hearing had been scheduled on 25 April. The defence team will now seek a presidential pardon for their client.

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Last March, a primary court in Mahdia (eastern Tunisia) sentenced Mejri and his friend Ghazi Beji to seven and half years in prison. Beji, who published a satirical book entitled “the illusion of Islam” online, fled Tunisia. Mejir, however, has been in prison since he was arrested on 5 March 2012.

Both men were fined 1,200 dinars (GBP £480) and sentenced to five years in prison for publishing content “liable to cause harm to the public order” under article 121 (3) of the Tunisian Penal Code. They each received a two-year jail term for “offending others through public communication networks” (article 86 of the Telecommunications Code), and another six months for “moral transgression.”

On 25 June 2012, the Monastir Court of Appeal upheld Mejri’s conviction.

On 23 April 2013, a committee supporting the two young men published a letter from Mejri, written in his prison cell in Mahdia, in which he claims he has been subject to torture. Mejri wrote:

There’s no freedom of expression here in Tunisia, it is dead…I am forbidden from medicines to cure my illness and from other rights. Seven years and six months is a long period to spend within a dark and gloomy small place. Officers find pleasure to torture me [sic]”

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