By Asma Smadhi | May 31 2013activism , Amina , Femen , feminism , kairouan ,
The controversial Femen activist Amina Sboui was convicted Thursday of carrying an “incendiary object” and fined 300 dinars (182 U.S. dollars). Amina will remain under custody, as she faces other serious charges for which she will go to court June 5.
The new charges against Amina include “offending public decency,” “forming an accord” with the Femen activist organization, and ”desecrating a cemetery.”
The three Femen activists who staged a topless protest in support of Amina on Wednesday in front of the Palace of Justice in Tunis are still under arrest and awaiting trial.
Amina began her Femen activities in Tunisia by posting topless pictures of herself on Facebook on March 11. She had agreed with Femen to take the organization’s campaign to Tunisia, she said on March 16 during an interview with the talk show “Labes” on the Ettounisya television station.
Amina was arrested May 19 in the Tunisian city of Kairouan. She had announced on her Facebook page that she would appear in Kairouan to protest against the Salafist organization Ansar al-Sharia, which was expected to hold their annual congress there. As the location of the Ansar al-Sharia’s congress was changed, Amina opted for writing the word “Femen” on the fence of a cemetery, an action that aroused the anger of bystanders.
The police force escorted Amina to a nearby police station to protect her, and she was held there for seven hours, she said Thursday when asked by the court about the circumstances of her arrest. A report was written against Amina at 8:00 pm, when the police searched her backpack and found a bottle of “paralyzing gas.”
During Thursday’s trial, Amina’s defense team of five lawyers argued that the law on which Amina’s charge is based cannot be applied. One of Amina’s layers, Mokhtar Janene, argued that the bottle of gas carried by Amina was invented after the enactment of the law, which dates back to 1894. Janene asserted that the legislature was not addressing this specific type of gas when drafting the legislation.
The legal team also argued that the word written by Amina, “Femen,” is not obscene .
“The paralyzing bottle of gas is used for self-protection,”said one of Amina’s lawyers, who also argued that her defendant “…went to Kairouan only to attend the congress and to watch it as a citizen.” The allegation was met by a fierce reaction from the prosecutors.
The prosecutors were acting on behalf of a petition against Amina signed by citizens of Kairouan. The petition claims that Amina harmed public morality and came to Kairouan to cause a disturbance and to provoke people.
The court said that it would not allow any individuals to file personal lawsuits against Amina.
The scene outside of the court was fraught with tension as the crowd that gathered in the early morning kept growing, many shouting “Allahu akbar” and “degage.”
Tension also escalated in the court room even before the beginning of the trial, with some of the lawyers yelling at each other.
Amina’s father emotionally addressed the court.
“I am proud of my daughter,” he said, but “…she committs rash acts.”
Henda Hendoud and Monia Ghozleni, two Tunisian activists, and Leila Ben Debba, Amina’s lawyer, told Tunisia Live that the trial was highly politicized.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article included a comment by Amina’s legal team that the word “Femen” means “woman” in Latin and Russian. While this accurately reflects what was said in the courtroom, it was removed because Tunisia Live does not believe it to be a factual statement.