Tunisia: Trial of topless activists may delay
12 June 2013, 16:18
Tunis - The lawyers of three European women arrested and
held in custody in Tunis for holding a topless anti-Islamist protest said on
Wednesday that they feared a fresh adjournment of their trial.
The judge is due to decide on whether to allow several
Islamist groups angered by the controversial protest to take part in the trial
as a civil party, according to Souheib Bahri.
"If he accepts [their demand], it is likely that the
hearing will be delayed for the procedures of including a civil party. If he
refuses, the defence must be heard," the Tunisian lawyer said.
The trial, which was due to start at 09:30 GMT, had already
been put off for a week and the three women denied bail, at the first hearing
The three members of the radical women's protest group Femen
- two of them French and one German -- risk six months in prison for baring
their breasts in socially conservative Tunisia, whose coalition government is
headed by a moderate Islamist party.
Their French lawyers said they had not made the trip to
Tunis for Wednesday's trial because they claimed the "rights of the
defence are not guaranteed".
"We are waiting for the clear and unconditional release
of our three clients" on Wednesday, Patrick Klugman and Yvan Terel told
They underlined that if the activists were not freed, they
would come "immediately to Tunis to step up international mobilisation [in
support of the women] especially ahead of the arrival of Francois Hollande",
the French president who is due to visit in early July.
The women were arrested on May 29 after staging a topless
demonstration outside the main courthouse in Tunis in support of Amina Sboui, a
Tunisian activist with the same "sextremist" group who had been
arrested 10 days earlier.
Sboui had been arrested for painting the word
"Femen" on a wall near a cemetery in city of Kairouan last month.
The Tunisian activist, who sparked a scandal in March by
posting topless pictures of herself on Facebook, defying Arab-Muslim
convention, faces possible charges of indecency and desecrating a cemetery.