The trial of controversial Tunisian Femen activist Amina Sboui, who posted topless pictures of herself online as part of the Femen campaign earlier this year, was fined yesterday for possessing an illegal aerosol tear gas but will remain in detention until a hearing on the other charges against her next week.
The fine was 300 dinars, (182 US dollars), according to radio station Mosaique FM.
Amina’s lawyers argued that the statute used to prosecute her for possessing the tear gas was inapplicable. They argued that the 1894 law on “incendiary objects” should not apply to her can of pepper spray. That charge carries a potential penalty of six months in prison.
She was arrested May 19 in Kairouan as she protested against a planned congress of the conservative religious group Ansar al-Sharia. In a video posted on the Internet, she was seen painting the word “Femen” on a wall near the Kairouan mosque.
The charges against Amina focus on the graffiti and a bottle of a gas spray, used for self-defense, that was in her possession when she was arrested.
The trial began a day after three European Femen activists conducted a topless protest in Tunis in her support, and were themselves arrested.
Tensions were evident before the trial began, with lawyers from both sides verbally confronting each other in the courtroom. Amina’s father was emotionally pleading with the judge before the trial.
Amina entered the court wearing a safsari, a traditional cloth wrap worn by Tunisian women. Underneath she wore a traditional jebba gown. She had been escorted by police to an alternate entrance before the trial.
Leila ben Debba, a well-known lawyer who was close to assassinated liberal politician Chokri Belaid, declared herself Amina’s official lawyer. Before the trial began, she had sung the Tunisian national anthem in the courtroom.
Amina admitted to possessing a gas spray when arrested.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs condemned the Femen protests in a communique, considering them “provocative” and “contradictory to the morals and values of Tunisian Muslims.” The ministry is encouraging authorities to react in firm way and described the protesters as irresponsible and reckless. It called on all Tunisians not to respond to “provocation.”
Voice of Russia, Tunisia Live, Herald Sun