After spending nearly two years in prison, Jabeur Mejri jailed for posting content deemed offensive to Islam, obtained presidential pardon, local media reported on Wednesday.
In March 2012, Mejri was sentenced to seven and half years imprisonment for posting Prophet Muhammad cartoons on his Facebook page. His friend, Ghazi Beji who published an ebook named “the illusion of Islam”, received the same sentence in absentia after fleeing the country. He now lives in France after obtaining asylum there.
They were found guilty of ‘publishing material liable to cause harm to public order or good morals’, ‘insulting others through public communication networks’ and ‘assaulting public morals’.
Mejri was repeatedly denied pardon requests made by his defense team, despite multiple promises from interim President Moncef Marzouki to release him.
For instance, speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) last September, Marzouki said that he is “waiting for the good political moment” to release Mejri.
“Now when you have this situation with the Salafists, extremely violent, releasing this guy right now could be dangerous for himself”, he added drawing criticism from human rights activists who considered his statement as an excuse to keep Mejri in prison.
On Facebook, the President's office confirmed the pardon[ar]:
الناطق الرسمي باسم رئاسة الجمهورية السيد عدنان منصر على موجات شمس إف إم :رئيس الجمهورية أمضى منذ أيام عفوا خاصا عن جابر الماجري في القضية الأصلية
The official spokesperson of the Presidency of the Republic Mr Adnan Mansar speaking on Radio Shems FM: Days ago, the President of the Republic signed a special pardon for Jabeur Mejri in the first case
Twitter reactions followed:
Ghassen Yahia referred [fr] to the country's new constitution which guarantees freedoms of speech, thought and conscience. The same charter, adopted last January bans “attacks on sanctities”, though.
Jabeur libéré? première application de la nouvelle constitution ? #FreeJabeur
— Ghassen Yahia (@GhassenYahia) February 19, 2014
Jabeur freed? Is this the first implementation of the new constitution?
Yamina Thabet, president of the Tunisian Association for Minorities, tweeted [fr]:
#freejabeur …Il est trop tard ,il ne s'agit plus de grâce mais d'une tentative de réparation d'une atteinte grave à la dignité humaine
— yamina thabet (@yaminathabet) February 19, 2014
#freejabeur…it is too late, this is not a pardon but an attempt to repair a serious blow to human dignity
Martin Pradel called for caution [fr]:
La grâce est annoncée depuis longtemps. Elle serait signée ; mais prudence, tant que Jabeur n'est pas effectivement libéré. #FreeJabeur
— Martin PRADEL (@MartinPradel) February 19, 2014
The pardon was announced a while ago, it should have been signed. But, caution as long as Jabeur has not been effectively released
Though pardoned, Mejri's release remains unconfirmed. The privately owned radio Shems FM reported that he remains in prison over an old lawsuit against him.
In a statement published yesterday [Feb 19, 2014], his support committee said [fr]:
Nous ne pouvons confirmer ou infirmer, pour le moment, ce nouveau rebondissement dans le dossier de Jabeur Mejri
Right now, we can neither confirm nor deny this new development in the case of Jabeur Mejri
Last January, the Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH) announced that Mejri would soon be released to travel to Sweden where he obtained political asylum.
Molka Chaari tweeted [fr]:
Gracié, Ok. Mais, il est "obligé" de quitter le pays??? #FreeJabeur #Tunisie
— Molka Chaâri (@Molka_Chaari) February 19, 2014
Pardoned, ok. But is he “obliged” to leave the country???