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Femen complain of Tunisia harassment

Femen complain of Tunisia harassment
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The trial in Tunisia of three Femen activists who staged a topless protest has been opened and adjourned until next week. The women will remain in custody, a decision denounced by their lawyers.

The postponement follows a request by Islamist groups to be listed as parties to the prosecution.

Pauline Hillier and Marguerite Stern, both French, and the German Josephine Markmann, were arrested following a protest last week in the central Tunisian town of Kairouan, the first by the feminist group in the Arab world.

They face charges of debauchery, which carries a potential six-month jail term.

Amina Tyler, the Tunisian activist whose release the women called for in their protest, has appeared before a judge before being taken back to prison. She reportedly wrote the word “Femen” on a wall in the town’s religious centre, and has been charged with carrying an “incendiary object”.

In Ukraine where the group is based, another Femen activist arrived home after being deported from Tunisia. Oleksandra Shevchenko had travelled to the North African country to support the others who were going on trial.

“Three men broke into my hotel room, I didn’t have time to send a message or call anyone – I was literally in my underwear. They didn’t show any ID, they wouldn’t tell me their names – they said I had to follow them,” she said.

The authorities tried to justify the deportation saying they feared another topless protest. Femen, which says it fights sexual exploitation, dictatorship and religion, argues it has been the victim of cyber attacks.

“Every day this week our website was hacked, so we couldn’t work with it, it was completely down. Only now have our IT specialists informed us that the attacks came from Algeria and Tunisia,” said Shevchenko.

The trial of the three European women in Tunis is now due to take place on June 12.