In Tunisia, one year in prison for blasphemy for an influential LGBT activist

Blasphemy is a ground for judicial condemnation in Tunisia. The president of the main LGBT association in the country announced on Tuesday that he had been sentenced to one year in prison for a Facebook post about the Prophet Muhammad, although he categorically denies being the author.

“The correctional chamber of the court of first instance of Tunis has just sentenced me to one year in prison, a thousand dinars fine (300 euros) and two years of administrative control for having blasphemed the prophet Muhammad”, wrote Mounir Baatour, president of the Shams association, on his Facebook page. The activist lives in France after leaving Tunisia in 2019 following complaints and threats because of this publication presenting Muhammad as sexually obsessed.

For the president: neither decriminalization nor incarceration

Created in 2015, the Shams association (“sun” in Arabic) campaigns for the decriminalization of homosexuality in Tunisia. The country’s president, Kais Saied, opposes decriminalization, but is also opposed to incarceration on the basis of sexual orientation.

Since the 2011 revolution, LGBT activists have emerged from the shadows in Tunisia, where local NGOs openly defend the rights of this community, which is still relatively rare in the Arab world. Human Rights Watch (HRW) had expressed in 2020 its “deep concern” at the legal proceedings against the LGBT community in Tunisia, especially after the sentencing in June of two men to two years in prison for sodomy.

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