First Published: 2014-05-21

Tunisia atheist activist back in prison after presidential pardon
Mejri receives same sentence handed down by court of first instance in April for insulting public official.
Middle East Online

Apparent desire to keep Jabeur in prison at all costs

TUNIS - A young Tunisian freed in March after two years in prison for posting cartoons deemed insulting to Islam, saw his eight-month sentence on a separate charge confirmed on appeal Wednesday.

Jabeur Mejri received the same sentence handed down by the court of first instance in April for insulting a public official, his lawyer Ahmed Mselmi said.

Mejri, an atheist activist, was jailed in 2012 for seven and half years for posting caricatures of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed, but walked free in March after receiving a presidential pardon.

He was detained six weeks later for insulting a court official over the date of a summons for him to appear before the investigating judge.

His support committee on Wednesday slammed what they called "judicial harassment".

"It's clear... that there is a desire not to accept the presidential pardon and to keep Jabeur in prison at all costs, to make him pay dearly for his freedom of expression and deter him from any further attempts," the group said in a statement.

The unemployed activist from Mahdia, south of Tunis, had originally been jailed in March 2012 for publishing the controversial drawings, but President Moncef Marzouki decided to pardon Mejri in February.

He was released two weeks later, but only after other charges against him emerged involving embezzlement and dating back to the time when Mejri worked for the Tunisian railways -- well before his imprisonment for posting the cartoons -- charges that are still being investigated.

Amnesty International called him the first prisoner of conscience in Tunisia following the 2011 uprising that ousted veteran strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Muslim extremists who were persecuted under Ben Ali's regime have enjoyed a resurgence since the revolution, and were blamed for numerous acts of violence against targets deemed "un-Islamic" when the government led by moderate Islamist party Ennahda was in power.


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