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Libya politicians escape death penalty over cartoon

03 March 2014, 08:14

Tripoli - Two Libyan politicians on trial over a cartoon said to be offensive to Islam on Sunday had charges that could have led to the death penalty dismissed, their lawyer said.

"The court gave its verdict. It decided on a dismissal of the three main charges" which carried a possible death penalty in the case of a conviction, lawyer Abdelmajid al-Mayet said.

Ali Tekbali and Fathi Saguer of the Libyan National Party were instead fined for "inciting discord among Libyans", their lawyer said, adding that he would appeal the ruling.

The men were accused of the "promotion and possession of... drawings insulting to Islam and the prophet" after they used a cartoon published by French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo on a party poster during the 2012 legislative election campaign.

The cartoon showed a group of men discussing the role of women in society, and Tekbali and Saguer said they had found the picture showing a bearded man without knowing that it depicted the Prophet Muhammad.

"The cartoon caused an uproar because, unintentionally, it featured the same character used to depict the Prophet Muhammad in an anti-Islamic comic published by... Charlie Hebdo. However, the Libyan poster made no reference to Islam or the Prophet Muhammad," Amnesty International said on Thursday.

Before the verdict, the London-based rights watchdog had called "for the charges against them to be dropped immediately".

"It is shocking that two political figures may face a firing squad over a cartoon that was published on an electoral campaign poster," said Amnesty's Said Boumedouha.

"No one should be prosecuted for freely expressing his or her views in public - however offensive they may seem to others."



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