Tunisia upholds cartoon conviction

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Tunis - A Tunisian appeals court on Monday upheld the seven-year sentence for a man convicted of blasphemy for posting cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed on Facebook.

Jaber Majeri was convicted on March 28 for posting images of the prophet purportedly being intimate with one of his wives. He was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison and fined $800.

A friend of his, Ghazi Beji, was also wanted in the same case, but he fled the country and was later convicted and sentenced in absentia.

The stiff sentence shocked many Tunisians and was seen as a sign of the new importance of Islam in Tunisia after the North African country's secular dictatorship was overthrown last year.

Majeri was convicted under laws dating from Tunisia's dictatorship that remain in force despite its overthrow.

Since then, there has been an explosion of social forces, including artists pushing the boundaries of expression as well as conservative Islamists denouncing the lack of piety in society.

Bochra Belhaj Hamida, the defence lawyer, condemned the court decision as unjust and criticised the judges for not letting a medical expert testify that Majeri had mental problems.

The trial comes two weeks after ultraconservative Islamists attacked an art gallery which was allegedly showing works insulting to Islam.

The head of a television station also was fined for showing an animated film that detractors say was blasphemous because it included a scene portraying God, which is forbidden in Islam. - Sapa-AP


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