Tunisians jailed for seven years for Facebook cartoons of Prophet Mohammad

By Reuters Staff
April 6, 2012

(The obelisk clock tower at the end of Tunis' Bourguiba Avenue strikes noon March 30, 2012. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi )

Two young Tunisians have been sentenced to seven years in prison for posting cartoons of the prophet Mohammad on Facebook, in a case that has fueled allegations the country’s new Islamist leaders are gagging free speech.

The two men had posted depictions of the prophet naked on the social networking site, the justice ministry said, inflaming sensitivities in a country where Muslim values have taken on a bigger role since a revolution last year.

“They were sentenced … to seven years in prison for violation of morality, and disturbing public order,” said Chokri Nefti, a justice ministry spokesman.

One of the two, Jabeur Mejri is in jail while the second, Ghazi Beji, is still being sought by police and was sentenced in absentia.

The sentence was handed down on March 28 but was not reported until Thursday, when bloggers started posting information about the case on the Internet.

“The sentences are very heavy and severe, even if these young people were at fault,” one Tunisian blogger, Nebil Zagdoud, told Reuters.

“This decision is aimed at silencing freedom of expression even on the Internet. Prosecutions for offending morals are a proxy for this government to gag everyone.”

Read the full story by Tarek Amara here.
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