Tunisian Mohammed cartoonist pardoned, but not freed

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 February, 2014, 1:31am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 February, 2014, 1:31am


A Tunisian jailed since 2012 for posting caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed online has received a presidential pardon, an official said yesterday, but it is unclear whether he will be released.

President Moncef Marzouki signed the pardon for Jabeur Mejri concerning the "main case", the president's spokesman Adnene Manser told Shems FM radio, but he added: "We were surprised by the existence of another [criminal] case," without elaborating.

Mejri, who comes from Mahdia, south of Tunis, is serving a seven-and-a-half-year sentence for posting cartoons of the prophet on his Facebook page.

Since blasphemy is not a crime, he was convicted of transgressing morality, defamation and disturbing public order.

The president announced on his official Facebook page that Mejri had been granted a "special pardon" without providing further details.

The Tunisia head of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Mokhtar Trifi, who has been closely following the case, said he was unaware of any other allegations against Mejri. "We have absolutely no knowledge of any other case," he said.

Mejri and his co-defendant Ghazi Beji, both unemployed and militant atheists, were charged with "publishing works likely to disturb public order" and "offences to public decency".

Beji fled abroad and was given asylum in France last June.

Marzouki has said on several occasions he wanted to free Mejri, but warned it would be difficult as long as Tunisia faced a rise in jihadist militancy.