Accused Tunisian publisher says naked picture is not immoral
Ben Saida says published photo of naked women and football star which landed him in legal trouble is a 'personal matter'; lawyers say prosecutors used anti-democratic Ben-Ali-era law to infringe on freedom of expression
Ahram Online & AP, Friday 24 Feb 2012
Part of the photo reprinted in Tunisia's Attounisia daily of German-Tunisian football player Sami Khedira holding his naked model girlfriend Lena Gercke, (Photo: GQ magazine cover).
The Tunisian publisher Nasreddine Ben Saida describes the controversial photo of a naked women as "simply a personal picture related to an athletic figure," denying any intentions to violate public morals.
A court has released Ben Saida on Thursday after being accused of violating public morals, pending a verdict in the case by next 8 March.
The Attounisia daily printed a photograph of German-Tunisian football player Sami Khedira of Real Madrid on 15 February dressed in a tuxedo with his hands covering the breasts of his otherwise naked German model girlfriend, Lena Gercke.
The defence lawyers said that the court had built its case on a struck-down law, and questioned the legality of the trial that Ben Saida had been subjected to.
"Ben Saida's trial is based on a law that was used to jail many political activists before the 2011 uprising, including the current President Al-Monsef Al-Marzouqi," defence lawyers added.
In a related development, the presidency issued a statement that condemns ' attacks and abuses' against journalists and the exchange of accusation, assuring its full support for civil freedom of expression.
Meanwhile, 19 human rights movements issued a joint statement on Wednesday to express solidarity with the Tunisian publisher.
The presidency revealed its satisfaction for the release of Ben Saida as part of Tunisia's endeavors to 'maintain the logic of dialogue' among all social and cultural sects of the society in the post-Ben Ali reign.
Though Tunisia is not as conservative as its neighbours, it was unusual for the newspaper to run such a photo.
Since the downfall last year of Tunisia's secular dictator, there has been a newly visible ultraconservative Islamist movement that has clashed with the more aggressively secular elements of society.