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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

Tunisia’s New Constitution: A Great Step Forward but Some Doubts Remain.

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Tunisian Women Protesting for Fundamental Rights in New Constitution.

This week, Tunisia passed a truly historic constitution widely heralded as a progressive and monumental document.

Here’s just some of what these brave elected representatives agreed upon in the face of strong pressure from the more extreme factions of their parties:

  • Guaranteed equality between men and women
  • A constitutional mandate for environmental protection, only the third country in the world to do so
  • A declaration that health care is a human right, with preventative care and treatment for every citizen
  • democracy with civil laws that respects freedom of religion
  • An established right to due process and protection from torture

In one stroke, Tunisia’s become more democratic than many Western countries have been for years. 

This is a revolution of democracy and a great victory for human rights — and the more we recognize that, the more Tunisia can shine as an example for the Western and the Arab world!

MESSAGE FOR TUNISIAN LEGISLATORS: We , the citizens of the world, applaud your bravery in making a strong commitment to universal human values in your constitution. People deprived of democracy around the world look to you to set the example of human rights and democratic principle — hold true to the promises made in this revolutionary document!

From Watchdog.

Last Friday, largely unnoticed in the Anglophone press, invited by Tunisia’s provisional President,Mohamed Moncef Marzouki,a whole range of Heads of State, from Africa, Arab countries, and Europe ( France’s President – the sole Western leader to attend) took part in  a ceremony in Tunis to celebrate this step forward.

The French Gauche anticapitaliste (part of the Front de gauche), has called the Constitution a “Phare” (a Beacon) of democratic social  principle,  though not necessarily a model that others can follow.

Some doubts about the new Constitution  remain,

On Human Rights Watch Amna Guellali (Director of the Human Rights Watch office for Tunisia and Algeria) observes,

Article 6 attempts the impossible task of reconciling two radically different visions of society. On the one hand, it caters to a hyper-religious audience that sees the government as a watchdog and protector of all things sacred. At the same time, the article describes a society that leaves each person the freedom of religious choice, without intrusion or interference. The two irreconcilable visions are forced together in a complicated and wordy fashion.

The article, as adopted, reads:

“The State is the guardian of religion. It guarantees liberty of conscience and of belief, the free exercise of religious worship and the neutrality of the mosques and of the places of worship from all partisan instrumentalisation.

The State commits itself to the dissemination of the values of moderation and tolerance and to the protection of the sacred and the prohibition of any offense thereto. It commits itself, equally, to the prohibition of, and the fight against, appeals to Takfir [charges of apostasy] and incitement to violence and hatred.”

These paragraphs, overloaded with meaning and references, are filled with contradictions. More disturbing, however, is how vague they are. The clauses allow for the most repressive of interpretations in the name of offence against the sacred. Citing the constitution, lawyers, judges and politicians could interpret Article 6 however they see fit. This ambivalence could hold grave consequences for the country.

This problem, the ” the criminalization of actions that could be considered “offence(s) to the sacred” remains a potential mine-field.

It is unlikely to disappear.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 13, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Tunisia: Islamist Bigots Refuse Freedom of Conscience.

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Amira: Democrat at the Heart of Tunisian Politics.

There was a brilliant article on the Nouvel Obsevateur site yesterday, describing the role of 29 year old  Amira Yahyaoui in helping frame the new Tunisian Constitution. They call it, “La première Constitution démocratique du monde arabe.”

The text of this interview by   is on the Nouvel Observateur link above.

But naturally the Islamists have objected to some key clauses in the Constitution.

We learn today,

A coalition of religious groups have criticized the draft of the constitution currently being adopted by the National Constituent Assembly (NCA), claiming that some of the articles so far approved violate the fundamentals of Islam.

The organizations released a statement Saturday which was posted on the Facebook page of the Tunisian Front of Islamic Organizations on Tuesday. The statement is signed by several groups, including the Association of Rhetoric and Forensic Science of Sfax.

A group of imams and Islamic associations brought the message to the NCA’s headquarters in Bardo Tuesday, expressing their disapproval of the constitution and specifically the current draft of Article 6, which was approved by a majority vote in the assembly.

The statement calls on NCA members to edit Article 6 and delete its ‘’freedom of conscience’’ clause. The statement claims this language would pave the way for “satanism” and “homosexuality.”

They demanded that the assembly drop a clause banning “takfir,” a word that means accusing someone of being a nonbeliever. The statement says this issue was not studied thoroughly and was introduced only to satisfy some deputies.

The groups also denounced the influence of secular NCA members on the drafting of the constitution and claimed that religious scholars were not consulted about the sections addressing religion.

They also criticized what they deemed attempts to vilify ‘Shariaa Laws.’

The statement concluded by asserting that NCA members have a historic responsibility to pass a constitution compatible with Islam. Tunisia Live.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 16, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Tunisia Commemoration of Mohamed Bouazzi: Left Raises Protests.

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December the 17th 201o, Mohamed Bouazzi, a 26 year old street vendor, set himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid to protest against social conditions. 

It was this act that triggered a protest movement against the regime that went beyond his home town of  Sidi Bouzid, Tunis and Tunisia to affect countries across in the Arab world. Al Huffington Post Maghreb (French version). 

Al-Jazeera reports,

This year, two separate events are planned to take place on December 17; one organized by major unions UGTT and UTICA, the leftist Popular Front, and civil society organizations, and one officially sanctioned programme, which will feature remarks from government officials as well as artistic performances.

Marzouki has confirmed his attendance, according to organisers.

“Politics have divided Sidi Bouzid,” says Aida Daly, an organizer of this year’s official December 17 programme. “It will be impossible to repeat the first [anniversary].”

“There is nothing to celebrate” this year, Daly added. “After the revolution, we still see martyrs; police and security officers who died because of violence and terrorism.”

Part of the UGTT-backed programme will be what organizers are calling a peaceful march to express loyalty to the martyr’s of the revolution. The committee has designated public spaces in Sidi Bouzid to be named in memorial of Mohamed Brahmi, who was assassinated this year.

As for unrest, both Gharbi and Daly acknowledged the tense political tone underlying the planned events; Daly citing whispers of protest in Sidi Bouzid, and Gharbi pledging them. and expressing that the political climate affects these programmes.

“This year, like last year, the festival will have a stamp of politics,” said Daly, adding, “I don’t imagine there will be more promises this year.”

La Presse de Tunisie supplies more background on the anniversary and the hostility of many Tunisians to the  ruling Islamists of  Ennahda.

They cite this,

 «La Révolution survient quand ceux qui sont au pouvoir ne veulent plus le quitter et ceux qui sont dans l’opposition sont incapables de les déloger. » (Lénine)

The revolution continues to exist while those in power do not want to leave it, and those in the opposition are unable to dislodge them.

French branch of the Front Populaire here.

Tunisia Live, in English, here.

This explains why many people feel why the Revolution has yet to achieve its objectives.

Tunisia: security sector reform Robert Joyce.

In October, photos surfaced of the savagely beaten body of 32 year old Tunisian man Walid Denguir. Police reportedly arrested Denguir in the Bab Fellah neighborhood of Tunis. Around an hour after his arrest, Denguir’s mother was called on by the police and told her son was dead. Pictures taken after autopsy show Denguir’s skull had caved in and a prominent human rights lawyer said that his injuries resemble the “roasted chicken” position, said to be common to the Ben Ali era, where the victim is hung by four limbs on a pole and beaten with sticks.

Three days after Denguir’s death, the Ministry of Interior remarkably released a statement blaming his death on “excessive violence” while in custody. The officials quickly got back to the normal routine, though, and removed the press release. An investigation is said to be under way from both within the ministry and the external court. Since then, despite continued reporting and civil society pressure no updates have been released. In a show of stunning nerve, the security forces union blamed Denguir’s death on the consumption of cannabis. Local media has run the same cause of death, attributing this to a phantom autopsy report.

The Denguir case serves as a particularly brutal example of the larger issues of police arrest practices. A Human Rights Watch report released earlier this month exposed the flaws in existing laws that have yet to be improved since the revolution. Police in Tunisia can hold arrested suspects for six days without pressing charges or processing them in the prison system. During this time as HRW writes, “detainees are particularly vulnerable to mistreatment by law enforcement agents because they have no access to a lawyer or to family visits.”

Written by Andrew Coates

December 17, 2013 at 11:42 am

Tunisian Politics Update.

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Protesters shout slogans during a demonstration in central Tunis to call for the departure of the Islamist-led ruling coalition

Tunisia Protesters Against Islamist Government. 

Reuters  reported this,

“Thousands of Tunisians marched through the capital on Wednesday chanting for their government to step down, hours before ruling Islamists and opposition leaders were to start talks aimed at end months of political crisis.

The moderate Islamist party Ennahda has agreed that the government it leads will resign in three weeks and make way for a non-partisan administration until new elections in the country where the “Arab Spring” revolts began in 2011.”

For all one’s respect for Reuters not everybody agreed that this  precisely the case.

Libération states this morning.

The Prime Minister promised in Wednesday night on the “principle” of the government to resign. But the start of the dialogue is uncertain.

On Wednesday night confusion reigned in Tunisia. This was notably about the beginning or  not the “national dialogue” that is supposed to resolve Tunisia’s a deep political crisis.

Let’s be clear, there was an engagement on Wednesday night “in principle” that the Islanist Prime Minister would resign,.

But the opposition  has called for a clear commitment to withdraw from the prime minister Ali Larayedh,  “The statement by the head of government was ambiguous (…) we can not enter into the national dialogue , said Jilani Hamami, representative of the Workers Party (Parti des travailleurs, note one of the Popular Front’s parties, the main left bloc).

The situation has further been complicated today.

Tunisia Live (which has become essential reading) reports,

Political negotiations meant to resolve Tunisia’s political crisis and prepare for its next elections were further delayed Wednesday after separate incidents of violence against state security forces.

The BBC updates,

Tunisia’s president has announced three days of national mourning for six officers killed by suspected militants in the central Sidi Bouzidi province.

President Moncef Marzouki was speaking on the second anniversary of the country’s first free elections.

Earlier, PM Ali Larayedh confirmed the government would resign after talks with the opposition on appointing a caretaker administration were complete.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 24, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Tunisia: Islamists Agree to Leave Office Before the End of the Month.

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Protest at assassination of Tunisian leftist leader Mohammed Brahmi .

Latest news: Tunisia deal to bring end to Islamist rule.

“Tunisia’s political rivals have agreed on a timetable for the Islamist-led ruling coalition to quit and be replaced by a government of independents.

The Islamist Ennahda party and opposition groups in the country signed a roadmap aimed at creating a new government within three weeks.”

More in Al Jazeera.

The Islamist Ennahda party, which heads the Tunisian government vowed on Saturday afternoon to step down before the end of October to resolve a deep political crisis. This comes two years after their  victory in elections following the January 2011 revolution. Libération.

Tunisia Live continues,

The roadmap plan drafted by a group of civil society organizations calls for government and political leaders to meet for direct negotiations, and mandates that the current government resign three weeks from the first session of talks in favor of group of technocratic leaders to be chosen during the dialogue.

Leaders of Ennahdha, the largest party in the ruling coalition, and Ettakatol, one of its governing partners, both signed the agreement at a ceremony today in Tunis. Most opposition parties, including Nidaa Tounes and members of the Popular Front coalition, also signed on. *

The same web site noted on Friday,

The Popular Front opposition coalition confirmed that it will take part in the direct talks between government and opposition parties, scheduled to begin Saturday morning.

“We are going to participate,” Popular Front leader Mohamed Jmour told Tunisia Live Friday. “But all parties have to respect the roadmap. Otherwise, we will leave the dialogue.

Tunisia has been in a political deadlock since the July 25 assassination of Popular Front member Mohamed Brahmi.

The roadmap plan guiding the dialogue was proposed by the UGTT labor union, the UTICA employers’ union, and two other civil society organizations.

This plan calls for direct meetings between political leaders and calls for a new government to replace the current government within three weeks of the first session of talks.

According to the UGTT, the opening session will kick off on Saturday at 9:30 am at the Palais de Congrés in Tunis.

Al Jazeera says,

Mistrust

“I want to thank you for joining this dialogue because you are opening the door of hope for Tunisians,” said Houcine Abassi, whose UGTT trade union confederation was the lead mediator behind the roadmap, at Saturday’s ceremony.

Delegates at the Palais des Congres said the launch of the hard-won dialogue with a symbolic ceremony had earlier been jeopardised by a last-minute dispute.

The UGTT said Ennahda had initially refused to formally sign the text that underlines the timetable of the national dialogue.

The two sides are still divided over issues including the date of elections, the role of a special assembly finishing a draft of a new constitution and composition of an electoral body to oversee the vote.

Libération also notes,

As a sign of prevailing animosity in Tunisia opposition figures this week again accused Ennahda of being involved in the assassination of MP Mohamed Brahmi in July and the killing in February of another opponent, Chokri Belaïd. These crimes, for which nobody has  yet to claim responsibility, have been laid at the door of the Salafist movement.

The country remains locked in institutional paralysis, linked to the emergence of armed Salafist groups. This has increased  economic difficulties. Investors have become more and more cautious, while inflation and the depreciation of the Tunisian dinar have eroded ordinary people’s purchasing power.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 6, 2013 at 11:03 am

Amina Sboui Quits Femen Over ‘Islamophobia’ and Asks about ‘Israeli’ Funding.

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Amina: Worried About ‘Israeli’ Finance for Femen.

This morning on France-Inter the Tunisian Femen activist (imprisoned and still charged with outrage of public decency) explained why she had left the feminist group.

She highlighted her concerns about Femen’s ‘Islamophobia’.

Amina then stated that she was worried about the finances of the organisation.

She expressed the view that she would not accept money from “America or Israel”.

Huffington Post.

Why did you decide to quit the Femen group?

I don’t know how the movement is financed. I asked Inna several times, but I didn’t get a clear answer. I don’t want to be in a movement supported by dubious money. What if it is financed by Israel? I want to know.

And then, I don’t want my name to be associated with an Islamophobic organization. I did not appreciate the action taken by the girls shouting “Amina Akbar, Femen Akbar” in front of the Tunisian embassy in France, or when they burned the black Tawhid flag in front of a mosque in Paris. These actions offended many Muslims and many of my friends. We must respect everyone’s religion.

But these actions were taken to support you while you were in prison. Why didn’t you consider them as such?
I thank them all for their support. Especially Joséphine, Marguerite and Pauline, who were also imprisoned. They took some good actions, but it wasn’t the case for all of them. They should have asked for my lawyer’s advice before taking some of these actions. This made my case even more difficult. Because of the protests I was charged with a new crime, “criminal conspiracy,” when I was in prison.

Have you informed the Femen group about you quitting the organization?
No. They are not going to like it, but that’s the way it is.

So, you decided to quit the organization, but you posted another topless photo just four days ago…
Yes, a topless photo of myself bearing a painted circled A, the anarchist symbol. It’s different.

Amina then announced her possible support for an Anarchist group Feminism Attack.

She declared that the “problème c’est tout le système” , the problem is the whole system (original – bizarrely translated in the English language Huffington Post as “I don’t like the system altogether”).

We strongly suspect this is the source of Amina’s ‘concern’ about the money behind Femen.

From what is known about their funding: the key player appears to be an individual named Jed Sunden. (6) Sunden is a Brooklyn-born American Jew who founded a major Ukrainian newspaper/media company; KP Media (which owned the Kyiv Post till 2008/2009 for example) , (7) and also is an active part of the Ukrainian jewish community. (8) Sunden was the man who‘discovered’ Femen and it was he who began to give them the oxygen of publicity (and notoriety) for their topless protesting in the Kyiv Post.

The anti-Semitic site (Semitic Controversies), continues,

This Jewish money and influence behind Femen seems to also be reflected in the organization’s public activities in so far as it protest against a vast number of things in different countries, including outraging Islamic opinion by performing topless stunts in North Africa and outside mosques in Europe. (13) This is in addition to Femen’s attacks on anything even remotely conservative as being‘patriarchal’ as well as their fairly crude hatred of religion writ large (and without qualification), but primarily of Christianity and Islam which they consider (as good third wave feminists) to be ‘evil patriarchal religions’ responsible for ‘innumerable atrocities against women’ as being intrinsically deeply oppressive towards the fairer sex.

There is plenty in the same vein from Russian racist sites, and the British ‘Stormfront‘.

This is a great shame.

Amina showed great bravery in protesting at sexism in Tunisia.

She still risks two years in Prison.

A feminist response,

 

inna shevchenko @femeninna

Amina betrayed not FEMEN but thousands of women who acted for her freedom during “Free Amina campaign” and because of who she is free now

Written by Andrew Coates

August 21, 2013 at 12:13 pm