Femen protests: Tunisia expels three in Ukrainian feminist group

‘Suspected topless protest’ prompts expulsion, while three other Femen activists stand trial on public indecency charges.

French Femen outside Tunisia embassy in Paris 5 June 2013

Three members of a radical Ukrainian feminist group have been expelled from Tunisia on suspicion of planning a topless protest in front of the court where their colleagues were being tried on charges of public indecency, the interior ministry said on Wednesday.

The statement on the Ukrainian ministry’s Facebook page said information had led to one individual being taken to the country’s main airport on Tuesday, while a Belarusian was stopped there the same day. Another Ukrainian was turned back on Wednesday at the airport.

Three fellow activists from the group, Femen, are on trial for public indecency after demonstrating topless in front of Tunisia’s Palace of Justice. They were calling for the release of a Tunisian member of the group.

The trial began on Wednesday with lawyers representing several Islamist groups petitioning to delay the trial so they could join as plaintiffs. The judge adjourned the session and said he would make his decision on 12 June.

The activists, Pauline Hillier and Marguerite Stern from France, and Josephine Markmann from Germany, appeared topless on 29 May in the group’s first semi-nude protest in the Middle East.

They have been charged with public indecency and being a threat to public order.

Draped in traditional white Tunisian cloaks, the women appeared on Wednesday in the same court they had demonstrated in front of.

Outside, dozens of people protested against them. Witnesses said one European woman, who held a sign supporting Femen, immediately drew the ire of the crowd and was hustled away by police.

Under the Tunisian legal system outside groups can join a trial as «injured parties», and become privy to the case files. They can also sue for damages. The addition of new plaintiffs would be likely to prolong the duration of the trial.

The activists were calling for the release of Amina Sboui, a Tunisian member of Femen, who, in March, scandalised some in the country by posting topless photos of herself demonstrating for women’s rights.

She later attempted another protest, on 19 May, in the religious centre of Kairouan, where she was arrested.

On Wednesday, Sboui appeared before an investigating judge in Kairouan who is considering the charges; they include public indecency, desecrating a cemetery and belonging to a band of malefactors seeking to damage public property.

Sboui has already been convicted of carrying pepper spray. Her lawyer, Radhia Nasraoui, said the judge would decide on the charges in the coming days.

In Paris Femen activists protested nude in front of the Tunisian embassy, mimicking the Muslim prayer in the street.

In Berlin a German government spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told reporters on Wednesday that Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, would be likely to raise questions about human rights and the rule of law during her meeting on Friday with the Tunisian prime minister.


Femen protests: Tunisia expels three in Ukrainian feminist group | World news | guardian.co.uk.

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