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Tunisia imprisons 3 for topless protest

| Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 9:21 p.m.

TUNIS, Tunisia — A Tunisian court on Wednesday convicted three European feminist activists who staged a topless courthouse protest last month, sentencing them to four months and a day in prison, a court official said. The defense called the sentence far too harsh.

The two French and one German members of the Ukrainian feminist group Femen maintained during the trial that there was nothing sexual or offensive about their protest and that it was only to support an imprisoned Tunisian colleague. A group leader has pledged further topless protests in Tunisia and the Middle East.

The protest was the first of its kind in the Middle East for Femen, which has used nudity to push for women rights across Europe. During the trial, the women wore traditional Tunisian cloaks, but their heads were uncovered.

Defense lawyer Souhaib Bahri expressed shock, questioning why trials in more serious crimes seem to result in lighter sentences.

On May 28, a Tunisian court gave 20 suspects in a Sept. 14 mob attack on the U.S. Embassy suspended sentences, prompting the United States to respond that it was “deeply troubled” by the decision. Four demonstrators died in the attack sparked by anger over an American film considered insulting to Islam.

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