Tendance Coatesy

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Faith Schools Undercover: When Will we Get a Secularist Challenge to Faith Education?

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Humanists Show the Way Forward.

Faith Schools Undercover: No Clapping in Class  (Monday 14th July at 8pm on Channel 4) revealed:

  • Exclusively that even before the so-called anonymous ‘Trojan Horse’ letter came to light the Prime Minister’s office had been warned of what was going on
  • Claims by current and former members of staff at Park View – one of the schools implemented in the ‘Trojan Horse’ allegations – that male pupils were given worksheets saying women couldn’t say no to sex with their husbands and also girls at the school were sent home from a sports event because only a male coach was present
  • The ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jewish schools in the London Borough of Hackney ‘operating illegally and without the most basic health, safety and child welfare checks’. Channel 4 Dispatches has shocking evidence that Hackney Council, the Department for Education and Ofsted have all known about the schools for years

The programme began with concerns at  Oldknow Academy Birmingham. A parent had complained at Christmas not being celebrated and got short shrift. He wrote to the PM.

The most important item was on Park View school,

A former teacher said, on camera, but anonymously that,

“about 60 male pupils were given a worksheet saying women couldn’t say no to sex with their husbands.

She says: “The work sheet categorically said that you know the wife has to obey the man. Well I think it makes the boys feel that they have got that power over girls. The east Birmingham area has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the country.”

This was flately, and not very convincingly, denied, by the school.

Local MP Khalid Mahmood  says: “I am not talking about here extremism in schools although ultimately it could lead to it, and that’s my fear, is that when you are grooming young people into that sort of a mind-set then its very easy once they leave school is to go that extra additional step.”

He also dismissed suggestions the controversy smacks of Islamophobia.

“Over 200 people complaining to the local authority about what’s gone on and you can’t really claim that it’s a witch-hunt,” said Mahmood, whose own actions have shown him sensitive to the difficulties raised by racist attacks on Birmingham Muslims.

There was a report on Olive Primary School in Blackburn.

During this there was evidence that  music in school was discouraged, that clapping was not encouraged, and that other “un-Islamic,” practices were frowned on.

Olive Primary  is run by the Tauheedul Education Trust, with two other secondaries in Blackburn.

The Lancashire Telegraph draws attention to one feature of the Trust’s activities,

The programme revealed trust schools hosted lectures by three extremist preachers, including Mufti Ismail Menk banned from six UK universities for preaching same-sex acts were ‘filthy’.

It showed him saying of gay people: “With all due respect to the animals, they are worse than animals.”

In Hackney illegal Jewish religious schools (for the ultra-orthodox) exist,

Channel 4 Dispatches discovered that more than 1,000 boys aged 13 to 16 have disappeared from registered schools in the London borough of Hackney.

Instead they are being sent by their parents to be educated in yeshivas – fee-paying schools where the curriculum is solely religious.

We have identified more than ten unregistered, illegal, schools.

And what’s really shocking is that Hackney Council, the Department for Education and Ofsted have all known about these schools for years.

We’ve seen internal government briefing documents that reveal as early as 2008 the Department for Education was aware of the issue. One document states the Department knows a number of schools are ‘operating illegally and without the most basic health, safety and child welfare checks’.

In 2012 the Department acknowledged those running the schools were breaking the law, but said they preferred to work cooperatively with the community.

There were shots of a school, including a room where Hasidic instruction and disputation was taking place. Students went in an out till late in the day.

The conclusion of this section was very unsettling.

Dispatches contacted the schools featured but have received no response.

Hackney Council, Ofsted and the Department for Education told Dispatches their concerns date back many years and they are aware of all the schools on our list.

They say they’ve been working to get them registered.

The Department for Education, who Ofsted and Hackney say have the power to take action against the schools, told Dispatches that ‘where applications for registration are still not forthcoming we will press for a prosecution as it is a criminal offence to operate an unregistered illegal schools.’

The programme seemed to suggest that the Council, out of concern for religious and cultural feeling, was unwilling to act.

Andrew Gilligam reports,

Government documents obtained by Channel 4’s Dispatches and the Jewish Chronicle newspaper say that many of the schools are “operating illegally and without the most basic health, safety and child welfare checks”.

Many boys in the Orthodox Jewish community in Stamford Hill, London, “will stop secular studies at the age of 13 or 14 and start attending ‘yeshivas’ where the curriculum is solely religious,” the documents say.

Between 800 and 1000 boys aged between 13 and 16 are “missing” from the school system in the borough of Hackney alone, the papers add.

Undercover filming by Dispatches in and around the schools shows the boys packed more than 50 to a classroom in dirty, run-down buildings, some converted houses. More than a hundred boys were filmed going in to an illegal school in Lynmouth Road, Stamford Hill, arriving from 7.30 in the morning and leaving late at night. The establishment is believed to be one of twelve illegal schools in the neighbourhood.

In 2011, about one third of the 20,000 state funded schools in England were faith schools, approximately 7,000 in total, of which 68% were Church of England schools and 30% were Roman Catholic . There were 42 Jewish, 12 Muslim, 3 Sikh and 1 Hindu  faith schools.

The British Humanist Association says,

“Around a third of all state-funded schools are schools ‘with a religious character’ – the legal term for ‘faith’ schools. This number has grown in recent years as successive governments have increased the influence of religious groups in the state-funded education system.”

That is, with the introduction of Academies and Free Schools, this percentage is believed to have risen.

Faith Schools Undercover noted their role in encouraging  ethnic and cultural segregation.

The idea that parents have the right to run, publicly funded, education that promotes their religion, is fundamentally wrong.

Some liberals seem unable to respond to the issues raised.

There are those who claim to be on the left who find excuses for these arrangements.

They claim that criticisms of, notably, the Birmingham schools, are an ‘Islamophobic’ conspiracy.

This completely fails to look at the problems religiously-run schools create – as indicated by the Channel Four Dispatches documentary.

It indicated that concerns had a solid basis.

The National Secular Society sets out a much better position that those wishing to sweep the subject of Faith education under the carpet.,

Rather than facilitating the segregation of pupils along religious lines, we would like to see steps taken to ensure children of all faiths and none are educated together in a respectful but religiously neutral environment.

As long as faith schools are publicly funded, we campaign for an end to exemptions from equality legislation that allow them to select pupils on the basis of the religion, or religious activities, of the child’s parents.

We are concerned that the Government’s desire for greater proportion of academies and free schools, which are independent and self-governing, will see more and more control of state funded education handed to religious organisations.

Dispatches showed more than enough reasons to back this stand.

The author of many of the pro-religious education policies, Michael Gove, is now Chief Whip.

He has been replaced by even more faith-influenced minister, Nicky Morgan, a Tory MP who voted against same-sex marriage, as  education secretary. She “continues as minister for women and equalities”.

Whataboutery and Seamus Milne on Conservative Islamic Influence in Education.

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Seamus Milne Hints at Plot to Forge Trojan Horse Document.

The fallacy of relative privation, or appeal to worse problems, is an informal fallacy which attempts to suggest that the opponent’s argument should be ignored because there are more important problems in the world, despite the fact that these issues are often completely unrelated to the subject under discussion.

The word whataboutery has been used to describe this line of argument when used in protesting at inconsistent behaviour. e.g. “The British even have a term for it: whataboutery. If you are prepared to go to war to protect Libyan civilians from their government, then what about the persecuted in Bahrain?” Wikipedia.

Seamus Milne is a master of Wataboutery.

Today in the Guardian he begins an article – Michael Gove’s toxic assault on schools is based on naked discrimination – with another tactic, of ‘contextualisation’ by putting an event in terms of the worst possible context.

“The harassment of minorities on the basis of forged documents has a grim history.”

So  the official onslaught on mainly Muslim state schools in Birmingham, triggered by what has all the hallmarks of a fabricated letter outlining a supposed Islamist plot to take them over, should be cause for deep alarm.”

Left in the dark about this “history” (although we might float the words, Protocols, Elders and Zion,  around) we launch into some rhetoric before landing here,

But this extremism turns out to be a different beast from the one first trailed in lurid accusations a few months back. It is nothing to do with terrorism, or even the elastic boo-word of Islamism. The target is religious conservatism – or even just plain religiousness.

It is with interest that Milne takes so lightly criticism of Islamism (overwhelmingly from the left in countries where Islamists have murdered democrats, leftists and feminists) that he calls it a ‘boo-word’.

Milne then largely denies that there is much of a problem about the influence of conservative Islamism in schools, notes the patriotism of  Birmingham Muslims, denies that most of the reported incidents of enforcing religious norms took place, and, unable to disprove some of them admits that,

That’s not to say, of course, that there’s nothing behind the allegations, which have clearly been fed by former and current staff – or that there aren’t legitimate grievances. These are not faith schools and some have clearly pushed the schools’ religious boundaries.

He then ends with a classic whataboutery,

“There’s a powerful case for secular education. But it doesn’t exist in Britain’s schools, which are awash with religion. And unless the same rules apply to all, the result is naked discrimination.  But has Gove sent inspectors to root out anti-abortionism and homophobia in Catholic or evangelical-sponsored schools, or cultural isolation in mainly white schools where racism is rife?”

No he has not.

He has not disestablished the Church of England.

Or promoted equality and secularism.

He is a dyed-in-the-wool reactionary privatiser.

But does Milne advocate promoting the “”same rules for all”?

We await this call with interest.

This is followed by another whatabout….

But the campaign to bring to heel Birmingham’s schools and humiliate the Muslim community in the process is a wider threat in a country where war-fuelled Islamophobia is already rampant. Dog-whistling to Ukip bigotry might seem a cute electoral trick.

The problem then is not the content of the report on the schools: it’s the context in which it’s made. By this sleight of hand Milne has avoided addressing the issues

  • Is there anything wrong with the principle of religious influence in education?
  • Should the influence of conservative Islam be curtailed?
  • Should there be universal secular education?

Whatabout Iraq!

Indeed.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 12, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Le Monde on Birmingham Schools Scandal.

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Secularism Means Freedom,  Equality and Solidarity!

The infiltration of public schools in Birmingham by Islamists causes a political scandal.

Le Monde 11.6.2014. (Extracts)

Birmingham is in shock. Across the media the second city of the Kingdom is everywhere. The infiltration by Muslim extremists of six public schools in the Midlands city  has stirred up a debate not only on the evolution of British multicultural society but it has also divided the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition led by  Prime Minister David Cameron.

On Tuesday Mr Cameron announced that “The promotion of fundamental British values ​​in schools in England will have the support of all”  This followed the publication yesterday of an  explosive Ostead inspection  report on  the Islamic practices  imposed by Muslim extremists in six schools in Birmingham.

Headteachers and non-Muslims or moderate Muslim teachers were harassed. Boys and girls were separated. Calls to prayer were constantly broadcast by loudspeakers. Private detectives were hired to investigate students in order to uncover  their sexual relations and report them back to parents. The Emails of recalcitrant teachers were scrutinised. Several pilgrimages to Mecca were financed with public funds. Hard-line school governors intended to stop the teaching of music and arts . They banned a picture of Jesus in a Nativity play at Christmas.

 

*********

Four of the six public schools in the spotlight are totally autonomous “academies” , completely free from local authority control, which are in principle charged with the supervision of public institutions. This reform was launched by the Blair government reform and put an end to municipal control of education and the school curriculum. It has been  by  continued by Mr Gove. The Birmingham case highlights the risk of abuses of a  system allowing freedom for schools to manage their own functions.

 

See also:

Halte à l’islamisation des écoles !

Cri de colère de l’écrivaine palestinienne Ahlam Akram contre les écoles tenues par des intégristes à Birmingham et ailleurs.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 12, 2014 at 10:38 am

Secularism Against Religious influence in Schools, from Birmingham to Islamabad.

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Park View School in Birmingham

Government’s response worst possible one.

“Le jour où les socialistes pourraient fonder des écoles, je considère que le devoir de l’instituteur serait, si je puis ainsi dire, de ne pas prononcer devant les enfants le mot même de socialisme.”

The day that socialists come to found schools, I consider that the duty of the teacher would be, if I may say, to never pronounce even the word socialism in front of the children .

Jean Jaurès Pour la Laïque January. 1910 Chambre des Députés.

The problem with the Ofsted report into a cluster of schools in Birmingham and the role Islamist extremists is not “extremism”.

It is the influence of religion in education, and the free reign this has been given in Academies and Free Schools.

Here is what we know, at present (Monday morning), from the central findings.

The Birmingham academy trust at the centre of the so-called Trojan Horse allegations has been accused of running schools which have “taken the Islamic focus too far”.

A leaked draft report on Park View Educational Trust from the Education Funding Agency says some parts of the school curriculum are “restricted to a conservative Islamic perspective”.

It found that girls and boys had been segregated in some classes.

The trust has strongly disputed allegations of extremism.

This highly-critical report found a classroom culture in which Park View School which was not welcoming to non-Muslim pupils – even though the school is not a Muslim faith school.

It described a “madrassa curriculum” in PHSE (personal, social, health and economic) lessons and “posters written in Quranic Arabic in most of the classrooms visited”.

Staff told the inspectors that loudspeakers in the school were used to broadcast the call to prayer.

The report says there were posters in classrooms encouraging children to begin lessons with a Muslim prayer.

And there were claims of an inappropriate external speaker being brought in to talk to pupils. BBC

Some on the left will side with the schools.

They have lost their moral compass.

The subject of Jihadism has muddied the waters. But this is not about a  link between these schools and ‘extremism’. It is about the power of religious authority in education.

The worst possible response has just come from the government.

“Protecting our children is one of the first duties of government and that is why the issue of alleged Islamist extremism in Birmingham schools demands a robust response,” the prime minister said.

Cameron will chair a meeting of cabinet ministers on Monday morning to discuss the Trojan horse findings, in the wake of the public row between Michael Gove and Theresa May on the subject. Ofsted will publish the reports and then Gove will address parliament on the issue.

The Guardian has also learned that the Department for Education is investigating options to radically restructure Birmingham’s state schools in what would amount to a sweeping, city-wide shake-up of England’s largest local authority. It could lead to all the city’s schools being forced to become academies.

These measures will simply transfer religious authority to new administration.

What is at stake.

A deeper principle remains unresolved: open-minded education.

These schools, as with all faith schools that limit pluralism, close people’s minds.

The evidence is there: the schools at the centre of the report  have clearly framed their teaching in religious terms. They have created an environment constrained within faith terms. They have actively promoted one religion.

A “madrassa curriculum” is the opposite of freedom, it is narrow-minded introduction to a single point of view.

This will certainly not be solved by making schools academies, which permitted this in the first place.

What should be our reaction?

We can see one already emerging.

It is to defend these religiously influenced academies.

This is to revive the debate between secularists, like  Jaurès  and his opponents,defenders of religious (Catholic) education way back before the Great War.

Some British liberals and some on the left would have sided with the far-right  Maurice Barrès who spoke against Jean Jaurès during the 1910 debate.

Barrès argued that religion was an integral part of French culture and the basis of humanism. He defended it against “rootless” secularism.

He evoked, as some British liberals and leftists do, the contribution of faith to morality and its cultural importance.

Jaurès replied that Barrès seemed to take everything, even the French cathedrals, as  support for his personal standpoint.

We will no doubt hear the same arguments from those backing the Birmingham schools.

What is the answer?

How is the state to be involved in education?

Not by making them academies, which, to repeat, created the opportunity for religious forces in the first place.

Comrade Jaurès had the response.

Secularism means freedom from imposing any doctrine in education, even his socialism.

It is to encourage the use of people’s own reason.

“Proudhon l’a dit avec force : l’enfant a le droit d’être éclairé par tous les rayons qui viennent de tous les côtés de l’horizon, et la fonction de l’Etat, c’est d’empêcher .l’interception d’une partie de ces rayons.”

Proudhon said emphatically: the child has the right to be enlightened by every beam of light coming from every quarter. The role of the State is to prevent any one of these rays being filtered out.

 

Subway Enforces Halal Food and Discriminates against Sikhs.

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Subway Stirs up Religious Controversy. 

 

Subway is now making 185 outlets sell only Halal food.

Sandwich chain Subway has defended changing the contents of some products in line with demands by Muslims for meat to comply with sharia law.

Sandwiches at 185 Subway outlets in Britain and Ireland no longer come with ham or bacon as the pig is regarded as unclean in Islam.

The pork has been replaced by turkey in a move the company hopes will avoid offending Muslim customers. Turkey is halal, or clean, to Muslims.

Subway outlets adopting the new policy will display a window sticker reading: “All meats are halah.”

IBT

There are, however, those who will not eat ritually slaughtered food.

This will hit one group directly: Sikhs.

Some Sikhs are vegetarian but those who are not have to follow the rule of not consuming Halal meat.

” Sikhs are strictly prohibited from eating meat killed in a ritualistic manner (such as halal or kosher, known as Kutha meat, or any meat where langar is served.  In some small Sikh Sects, i.e. Akhand Kirtani Jatha eating any meat is believed to be forbidden, but this is not a universally held belief.  The meat eaten by Sikhs is known as Jhatka meat.”

Wikipedia.

Subway, like many ‘multi-culturalists ‘, appears to be unaware of the complexities of different religious stands on food.

It should not have entered this divisive area in the first place. 

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 1, 2014 at 11:57 am

French Prime Minister Valls Booed at Vatican Canonisation.

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Ils étaient une vingtaine a dénoncer l'attitude du Premier ministre, à Laval.

The attendance of French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, at the Vatican, during the canonisation of two previous Popes, has created controversy.

“Twice, some of the thousands of French Catholics present at the Vatican ….booed the Prime Minister when his image appeared on the giant screens. The cries rang out once while Manuel Valls approached the podium Piazza Farnese, before the start of the ceremony.”

 Manuel Valls was present at the ceremony, he claimed, “«pour représenter la France et son gouvernement (…) un État laïc mais respectueux de l’Église». “”to represent France and its government (…) a secular state but respectful of the Church.”

Not only the Catholic hard-right – still angry over Gay marriage and hysterical about an alleged plot to teach  “gender studies” and homosexuality  in schools – were annoyed.

L’Association des Libres Penseurs de France (ADLPF), and other secularist organisations, have protested at this official recognition and support of Christianity. 

The Fédération Nationale de la Libre Pensée states, “C’est la soumission pure et simple de la Républiqueà l’Eglise catholique, apostolique et romaine !”

This Tuesday the rightward leaning  Socialist Prime Minister faces a crucial  Parliamentary vote on his plans for cuts and a “pact of responsibility” with employers, reducing charges and encouraging “enterprise”. Members of his own party are known to have raised objections, and the outcome could be close. Valls has denied that he will seek the support of right-wing deputies to push his proposals through (le Monde).

Mejiri, in Tunisian Prison for Images of the ‘Prophet’ pardoned but remains in Prison.

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Not Yet Free.

President Moncef Marzouki has signed a pardon for Jabeur Mejri, who was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for posting cartoons of the prophet Mohammed online, according to his office.

Mejri’s supporters, however, have criticized the lack of details in the announcement and say he is still imprisoned.

Presidency spokesperson Chaker Bouajila confirmed to Tunisia Live that a pardon has been signed. He referred all further questions to a legal advisor, who could not be reached for comment.

Adnene Mansar, another spokesperson for the presidency, announced the decision in an interview on radio station Shems FM Wednesday.

“A few days ago, President Moncef Marzouki signed an pardon decision on Jabeur Mejri’s case, ” Adnene Mansar told Shems FM

“In October, Jabeur Mejri wrote a handwritten apology letter saying: I declare that I apologize to the Tunisian people and other Islamic people for what I released of my writings and drawings offending the Prophet Mohammed and Islam,” Mansar added.

He added that there was another case against Mejri involving “financial misconduct,” but the details of this are unclear.

Henda Chennaoui of Mejri’s support committee is not satisfied with the announcement.

“We demand more transparency on the release of prisoner of conscience Jabeur Mejri. We condemn the Presidency’s tricky statements announcing the pardon without speaking about liberation. Jabeur is still in prison,” she posted on her Facebook page.

Previously, the presidency said Mejri could be released in a deal involving asylum in Sweden. It is unclear if this option has been taken.

- See more at: http://www.tunisia-live.net/2014/02/19/presidency-announces-pardon-for-jabeur-mejri-but-supporters-say-hes-still-in-jail/#sthash.ai2XIpLq.dpuf

President Moncef Marzouki has signed a pardon for Jabeur Mejri, who was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for posting cartoons of the prophet Mohammed online, according to his office.

Mejri’s supporters, however, have criticized the lack of details in the announcement and say he is still imprisoned.

Presidency spokesperson Chaker Bouajila confirmed to Tunisia Live that a pardon has been signed. He referred all further questions to a legal advisor, who could not be reached for comment.

Adnene Mansar, another spokesperson for the presidency, announced the decision in an interview on radio station Shems FM Wednesday.

“A few days ago, President Moncef Marzouki signed an pardon decision on Jabeur Mejri’s case, ” Adnene Mansar told Shems FM

“In October, Jabeur Mejri wrote a handwritten apology letter saying: I declare that I apologize to the Tunisian people and other Islamic people for what I released of my writings and drawings offending the Prophet Mohammed and Islam,” Mansar added.

He added that there was another case against Mejri involving “financial misconduct,” but the details of this are unclear.

Henda Chennaoui of Mejri’s support committee is not satisfied with the announcement.

“We demand more transparency on the release of prisoner of conscience Jabeur Mejri. We condemn the Presidency’s tricky statements announcing the pardon without speaking about liberation. Jabeur is still in prison,” she posted on her Facebook page.

Previously, the presidency said Mejri could be released in a deal involving asylum in Sweden. It is unclear if this option has been taken.

- See more at: http://www.tunisia-live.net/2014/02/19/presidency-announces-pardon-for-jabeur-mejri-but-supporters-say-hes-still-in-jail/#sthash.ai2XIpLq.dpuf

Background.

Ghazi Beji  and Jabeur Mejri are Tunisian citizens sentenced on 28 March 2012 to 7.5 years’ imprisonment for “transgressing morality, defamation and disrupting public order” after posting naked caricatures of Mohammad to Facebook.Mejri faced trial in court, while his friend Beji was convicted in absentia, having fled to Europe to escape prosecution. Mejri’s appeal of his sentence was denied on 25 June 2012. Mejri’s lawyer objected to his client being denied medical evaluation, describing him as “mentally unstable” and unemployed for the past six year.  Wikipedia.

Today Libération reports that Jabeur Mejri has  received a Presidential pardon.

But he remains in Prison on a (critics allege, fabricated) charge of having operated a fraud as an emploeye of the Tunisian railway services.  While unemployed when arrested for “blasphemeny” he had in the past worked in the ticket office of Mahadia.

Ghazi Beji has been granted political asylum in France.

This story is also on Tunisia Live.

“President Moncef Marzouki has signed a pardon for Jabeur Mejri, who was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for posting cartoons of the prophet Mohammed online, according to his office.

Mejri’s supporters, however, have criticized the lack of details in the announcement and say he is still imprisoned.

Presidency spokesperson Chaker Bouajila confirmed to Tunisia Live that a pardon has been signed. He referred all further questions to a legal advisor, who could not be reached for comment.

.Adnene Mansar, another spokesperson for the presidency, announced the decision in an interview on radio station Shems FM Wednesday.

“A few days ago, President Moncef Marzouki signed an pardon decision on Jabeur Mejri’s case, ” Adnene Mansar told Shems FM

“In October, Jabeur Mejri wrote a handwritten apology letter saying: I declare that I apologize to the Tunisian people and other Islamic people for what I released of my writings and drawings offending the Prophet Mohammed and Islam,” Mansar added.

He added that there was another case against Mejri involving “financial misconduct,” but the details of this are unclear.

Henda Chennaoui of Mejri’s support committee is not satisfied with the announcement.

“We demand more transparency on the release of prisoner of conscience Jabeur Mejri. We condemn the Presidency’s tricky statements announcing the pardon without speaking about liberation. Jabeur is still in prison,” she posted on her Facebook page.

Previously, the presidency said Mejri could be released in a deal involving asylum in Sweden. It is unclear if this option has been taken.”

Written by Andrew Coates

February 20, 2014 at 1:28 pm