Amnesty International calls for ending prosecution of Emna Chargui, and investigate alarming death and rape threats
28/05/2020 12:41, TUNIS/Tunisia

(TAP)-"The Tunisian authorities must halt the prosecution of Emna Chargui for sharing a satirical social media post that some people considered offensive to Islam on her Facebook page and drop all charges against her," Amnesty International said on Wednesday on the eve of her trial set for May 28.

"Since her Facebook post, Emna has received messages from people threatening to kill or rape her, yet the authorities have failed to take action to protect her or to investigate these threats," the organisation pointed out.

«The prosecution of Emna is yet another illustration of how, despite Tunisia's democratic progress, the authorities continue to use repressive law to undermine freedom of expression,» said Amna Guellali, Deputy Director for North Africa at Amnesty International.

«It is unacceptable for someone to face a prison sentence of up to three years just for sharing a satirical post on Facebook. Such a trial sends a message that anyone who dares to express a controversial view on social media runs the risk of being punished.

«We are calling on the authorities to immediately end her prosecution, investigate the worrying death and rape threats she has been receiving, and ensure she is."

On 2 May, Emna Chargui, 27, shared a photo on Facebook containing a satirical text that imitates the format of a Quranic verse about the COVID-19 pandemic. The post, which mentions that the virus came from China and tells people to wash their hands, has stirred a strong reaction from people on social media who found it offensive and called for her punishment.

On 4 May, Emna was summoned by judicial police who questioned her the next day in the presence of her lawyer. On 6 May, she appeared in court before the prosecution who did not allow her lawyer to accompany her. Without introduction or knowing who the prosecutor was, a panel of seven individuals interrogated her for half an hour, including questions related to her faith. One panelist even asked her if she had consulted a psychotherapist, suggesting that she might be mentally disturbed.

On 6 May, the prosecutor of the Tunis Court of First Instance charged her with «inciting hatred between religions through hostile means or violence» and "offending authorized religions" under Articles 52 and 53 of the Tunisian Press Code. These charges are punishable by a sentence of up to three years imprisonment and fine up to 2,000 Tunisian Dinars (between approximately 345 and 1,035 USD).

«The right to freedom of expression extends to expression which some might consider shocking or offensive. The Tunisian government must amend its laws so they are compliant with human rights and stop prosecuting people for their peaceful expression,» said Amna Guellali.

Several Tunisian human rights organisations, including the Tunisian League for Human Rights and the Higher Committee for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms expressed their support for blogger Emna Chargui and denounced her "judicial harassment."

They expressed, in a joint statement, their rejection of all attempts to restrict the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.

In their statement, the organisations expressed concern about "attempts to muzzle voices and control virtual space under the pretext of protecting the sacred and referring to the inquisition courts."

They also question the eagerness of the prosecutor's office to take up the blogger case, which they say raises fears that this case could mark the beginning of the restriction of online freedoms, especially after the failure to pass legislative initiatives aimed at controlling social networks and the trouble bloggers are getting into for suspecting corruption.

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