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    After Banning Takfir, Assembly Continues Vote to Approve Constitution

    By Afef Abrougui | Jan 6 2014 Share on Linkedin Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google Share on pinterest Print

    Tags: apostasy ,Constitution ,ellouze ,infidel ,rahoui ,
    National Constituent Assembly. Image credit: Emily Parker

    National Constituent Assembly. Image credit: Emily Parker

    After a contentious Sunday session, Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly (NCA) today resumed article by article voting on the new constitution.

    The assembly has been tasked with approving the entire 146-article document by January 13.

    Monday’s plenary session was supposed to be scheduled for the selection of the membership of the board of elections. However, the NCA committee tasked with submitting a final list of nominees to an NCA plenary session has not reached consensus, deputy Karima Souid tweeted.

    The NCA started the vote on the Rights and Liberties Chapter of the constitution by adopting nine articles during today’s morning session.

    Among these are Article 21, which states that “life is sacred.” This article, however, maintains the legality of the the death penalty in “extreme cases regulated by law.” Proposed amendments to abolish this punishment were rejected.

    Though the death penalty has always existed in Tunisian law, the last execution dates back to 1991.

    Other articles approved today ban torture (Article 22), guarantee the right to privacy and personal data protection (Article 23), and the right to a fair trial (Article 26).

    On Sunday, however, the constituent assembly did not achieve much progress on approving the constitution. The day’s plenary session was disrupted by death threats allegedly received by Popular Front opposition member Mongi Rahoui.

    Rahoui reported receiving death threats following the declarations by Ennahdha deputy Habib Ellouze, in which he referred to him as an “enemy of Islam.”

    In response to Rahoui’s declaration, the opposition proposed an amendment to Article 6 banning “takfir” (accusations of apostasy) to Article 6, which guarantees freedom of conscience and religion. The amendment, which also bans “incitement to violence,” was approved by 131 votes in the 217-seat assembly.

    Under Article 6, the state acts as the “guarantor of the neutrality of places of worship” and “protector of the Sacred.”

    Amira Yahyaoui, president of NCA monitoring organization Al-Bawsala, criticized the amendment and described it as “draconian” in a post on Twitter.

    NCA deputies “from the Islamist camp till the so-called democratic one have today voted against freedom of expression,” she said on Sunday.

    The NCA kicked off voting on the constitution last Friday by adopting the preamble.

    On Saturday, a total of 15 articles were adopted including the first two defining Tunisia as a Republic and a “civil state governed by the supremacy of Law” and establishing Islam as the state religion.

    Proposed amendments to make the Quran and Sunnah (teachings of the Prophet Mohammed) main sources of legislation were rejected.

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