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French feminists face Tunis appeals trial delay

The appeals trial of three European activists with women's protest group Femen, jailed for baring their breasts in Tunis, was adjourned on Friday, their lawyer said.

French feminists face Tunis appeals trial delay
One of three European members of Femen given a four-month jail term in Tunis, Tunisia on June 12th for this protest on May 29th. Photo: Fethi Belaid/AFP

Souhaib Bahri said the judiciary had failed to allow the necessary 10 days to elapse that gave Islamist groups the chance to appeal against the rejection of their request to participate as a civil party at the original trial on June 12th.

"Because the delay only expired today, the judge had no other choice (than to adjourn the trial) to give the associations time to appeal," Bahri said, adding that it was the public prosecutor's fault.

The defence team for the three women, two French and one German, requested that the defendants be released on parole, despite their sentencing on June 12th to four months in jail for indecency and an attack on public morals.

Bahri said he expected the judge to announce his decision on that, and to fix the date for the next appeal hearing later on Friday.

The defendants, appearing in court earlier dressed in the traditional Tunisian veil, or safsari, again defended their actions when given the chance to speak.

"Our objective was not to break Tunisian law or to attack public morals, but just to support Amina," said German activist Josephine Markmann.

The Frenchwomen are Margaret Stern and Pauline Hillier.

The three were arrested on May 29 for staging their controversial demonstration outside the central courthouse in Tunis in support of Amina Sboui, a detained Tunisian  activist from the same radical women's group.

Sboui was arrested for painting the word "Femen" on a wall near a cemetery in the central city Kairouan last month, in protest against a planned gathering of radical Salafists.

She remains in custody while a judge rules on whether she should face charges of indecency and desecrating a cemetery, which respectively carry possible jail terms of six months and two years.

The lawyer for the European women had been hopeful of a verdict being delivered o Friday, on the grounds that the appeals hearing was granted just nine days after their conviction, rather than the normal delay of four to six months.

But lawyers for the Islamist groups blamed "foreign pressures" for the fact that the appeals process had been accelerated, claims the public prosecutor rejected.

"There has been no pressure on the judiciary. We accelerated (the process) to give an example to the foreigners present of the quality and advanced state of the Tunisian judiciary," he said.

The four-month jail terms handed down to the defendants have been criticised in Europe, where the case is seen by some as a test of democratic freedoms under Tunisia's Islamist-led government which came to power after the revolution of January 2011.

France, Germany and the European Union all expressed regret at the severity of the sentences.

But Islamists in the conservative Muslim nation were angered by topless protest, with some calling for the activists to be given harsher sentences.

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FEMEN

Topless protesters held in bid to ‘welcome’ Trump to Paris

French police on Sunday arrested three topless rights protesters who approached the motorcade of US President Donald Trump on the Champs-Elysees in Paris heading to a ceremony marking 100 years since the end of World War I.

Topless protesters held in bid to 'welcome' Trump to Paris
A Femen is dragged out of the way by French police. Photo: Sam Loeb/AFP
One of the protesters, who had slogans including “fake peacemakers” and “hypocrisy parade” written on their chests, got within metres of the rear of the motorcade after jumping over a barricade.
   
She was grabbed by a police officer, while a second woman could be seen being hauled away by security services on the edge of the famous thoroughfare.    A third woman, who was positioned a little higher up the avenue, also managed to breach the security cordon and run towards Trump's convoy with her arms raised.
   
She too was quickly overpowered by the police and all three were arrested. 
 
The incident revealed chinks in the tight security put in place for the event, with some 10,000 security force members deployed around a city which has been hit by a series of jihadist attacks since 2015.
   
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said Trump's security had “in no way been threatened”.
   
Inna Shevchenko, one of the leaders of radical feminist group Femen, confirmed the group was behind the protest.
 
Constance Lefèvre, another activist who was among the crowd but did not participate in the protest, told AFP that Femen was protesting the presence in Paris of leaders “who are responsible for most of the world's conflicts”.
   
She cited Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdogan, among others.
   
Trump's motorcade briefly paused due to the breach of security before continuing on to the Arc de Triomphe where around 70 world leaders had gathered to mark the centenary of the Armistice.
   
Three Femen protesters had already demonstrated at the Arc De Triomphe on Saturday morning to denounce the presence of “war criminals” among the guests at the ceremony.
   
The three were also arrested.
 
Femen activists also protested earlier on Saturday outside L'Arc de Triomphe. Photo: Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP
 
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