The trial of Tunisian FEMEN activist Amina Tyler, who was arrested on May 19 after she graffitied the word FEMEN on the wall of cemetery in Kairouan, 184km from the capital Tunis, will resume on June 5.
On May 30, a court fined Amina 300 Tunisian Dinars (150 euros) over the “non-authorized possession of an incendiary object” — pepper spray. Amina's lawyers argued that she had the pepper spray for self-defense reasons, following the death threats she received last March, after she posted topless photographs of herself on Facebook. Though she avoided a six-month jail-term for this charge, Amina remains in custody and now faces new charges: “undermining public morals”, “desecrating a cemetery” and “belonging to a criminal organization” [FEMEN]. These charges could land the 19-year-old in jail for several years.
On 31 May, Amnesty International called upon the Tunisian authorities to release Amina. The organization described the charges as “politically motivated and targeting her [Amina] for her activism on women's rights”.
Silence of the so called “Democrats”?
The secular Tunisian opposition's lack of support to Amina, was met with criticism. Fearing to lose the future votes of the conservative electorate, it seems that leftist politicians have preferred to remain silent. This is not the first time political parties from the left faced accusations of letting down their own “progressive” values. For instance, they were also accused of adopting a weak stance on the case of Ghazi Beji and Jabeur Mejir, who were convicted to seven and half years in prison last year, over the publication of online content deemed offensive to Islam.
In the Avaaz petition demanding the release of Amina, the support committee for the young FEMEN activist said [fr]:
Retour à la case prison pour Amina !
Nous avons toutes et tous été leurré(e)s par l’annonce de la relaxe d’Amina pour détention d’explosif. Amina, la prisonnière de l’hypocrisie politique tunisienne, du mutisme de celles et ceux qui veulent s’affirmer démocrates, mais qui n’osent prendre part à la lutte qui se joue actuellement.
Amina is back in prison!
We were all deluded by the announcement that Amina was released over the possession of an incendiary object. Amina is the prisoner of the Tunisian political hypocrisy and the silence of those claiming to be democrats but do not dare to take sides in this ongoing battle.
Tunisian writer Gilbert Naccache also criticized [fr] the proclaimed democrats’ stance:
La démocratie a vraiment du mal à se frayer un chemin jusqu’à nos cerveaux ! Les mêmes qui se disent prêts à se battre jusqu’au bout pour les libertés (…) hurlent à l’intolérable provocation quand Amina s’exprime(…)
Les justifications de la condamnation d’Amina, même par ceux qui l’accusent de donner un prétexte à détourner l’attention des vrais problèmes, de contribuer à diviser davantage les Tunisiens, ne sont en fin de compte qu’une façon de ne pas assumer son devoir qui est de défendre Amina contre la calomnie et les mensonges (…) et de défendre le droit de tous à s’exprimer à sa façon…
It is really hard for democracy to make its way to our brains! Those claiming to be ready to fight until the end for freedom, (…) are denouncing an intolerable provocation when Amina expressed herself(…)
The pretexts used to condemn Amina, even by those who accused her of distracting [public's] attention away from the real problems or further dividing Tunisians, are in fact only finding a way not to assume their duty which is supporting Amina against slander and lies,(…) and supporting every individual's right to express him/herself in his/her own way.
Three other FEMEN activists, two French and one German are also set to stand trial on June 5. They each face a six-month imprisonment after they staged a topless protest outside a Tunis-based court on May 29 in support of Amina.