16 defendants in the Abdellia Palace case were sentenced on Tuesday evening, January 15, to a one-month prison term, defense lawyer Rafik El Ghak told Tunisia Live.
The case dates back to early last June when an art exhibition at the Abdellia Palace in the Tunis suburb of La Marsa offended religious hardliners, who deemed some of the paintings to be unethical. The exhibition space was attacked, and a wave of riots ensued for several days, obliging the government to impose a curfew for three nights.
Their sentence does not stem from involvement in the unrest but rather violations of the state of emergency that was in effect at the time of the “art riots,” said El Ghak. Breaking the nightime curfew and gathering with more than three persons were what ultimately landed them in court.
“My clients did not participate in the protest against the ‘Printemps des Arts’ exhibition at the Abdellia Palace. They planned to go, but could not reach La Marsa… As the way was blocked, they decided to return and not participate in the protest. In Moncef Bey (an area near downtown Tunis), they were arrested on their way back by policemen,” he recounted.
14 of the defendants appeared before the Court of First Instance in Tunis on Tuesday while the other two were sentenced in absentia.