Tunisia jails couple over 'naked public kiss'

Tunisia jails couple over 'naked public kiss'
Appeal case ends with reduced prison terms after widespread outrage at the 'naked' couple's earlier sentencing.
2 min read
19 October, 2017
The couple's case was reviewed after widespread outrage at their initial sentencing [Getty]

A Frenchman and a Tunisian woman were convicted of "public indecency" by Tunisian court on Wednesday, following the couple's arrest when they were reportedly hugging in a car.

The pair were originally sentenced on October 4, however appealed the decision and were given lighter sentences after widespread social media and press outrage.

The man was handed four months in prison for "public indecency" and "refusing to obey the police", while the woman will serve two months for the first charge.

"It's an independent decision," a spokesman for the public prosecutors office, Sofiene Sliti told AFP.

"What has been reported nationally and internationally is wrong - they weren't arrested for a kiss, the couple was naked," he added.

At the hearing Wednesday, the woman collapsed into tears when the court president read a police description saying a sexual act was in process when the couple were stopped on October 1 in a suburb of Tunis.

The couple maintain that they were not kissing at the time of their arrest, with the woman claiming that her friend had simply taken her into his arms.

The Frenchman confirmed to the judge that he had tried to film the police to make a complaint about their behaviour.

A dozen defence lawyers had been arguing for an acquittal for the couple. The majority of the lawyers were working for free on the case, which has triggered an uproar in Tunisia over morality campaigns and police behaviour.

The defence pointed to numerous flaws in the case, including hearings in Arabic which the Frenchman, who is of Algerian origin, did not understand.

"It is normal that he reacts badly when his fundamental rights were being violated," said lawyer Ghazi Mrabet, whose client is accused of intimidating police.

He pointed to what he said was "bad faith" on the part of the police, who he said were looking for revenge after being implicated over their handling of the case.

"This case highlights key problems with the judicial system and the police. Abuse of powers... lack of respect for citizens and their rights, attacks on individual liberty," said former deputy Nadia Chaabane, who is a member of a group to support the couple.

"The problem is that we have judges now who accept all these breaches and procedural problems," she said before the judgement.