Tunisia arrests official after riots over 'un-Islamic' art

AFP , Wednesday 20 Jun 2012

An ultraconservative Muslim demonstrates with a Quran at the Manouba university in Tunis after scuffles erupted between Salafists students and members of a leftist students union, wounding a few students, March 7, (Photo: AP).

Tunisian authorities have detained the court officer who denounced an art exhibition as offensive to Islam last week and triggered a wave of riots by hardline Islamists, the official TAP news agency said.

Mohamed Ali Bouaziz was arrested late Tuesday on charges of disrupting public order, the agency said, quoting a justice ministry official.

He is accused of posting pictures of the paintings on Facebook and "breaching professional secrecy by declaring them an insult to Islam, triggering acts of vandalism and violence in several parts of the country."

On June 10, Bouaziz, dispatched by a conservative religious organisation, went to the art gallery in northern Tunis where independent artists had organised an exhibition entitled "The Spring of Arts".

He was instructed to report the blasphemous nature of some of the works, which included a painting of a naked woman with bearded men standing behind her and a piece spelling the world "Allah" with a file of ants.

Suspected Salafists -- who follow an ultra-conservative brand of Islam -- snuck into the gallery on the same day and destroyed some of the works.

Rioting broke out in several parts of the country on June 11 and 12, leaving one dead and more than 100 wounded.

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