x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Tunisian rape victim still facing indecency charge

Prosecutors appeal decision to drop case against woman.

TUNIS // The public prosecution in Tunisia has appealed against a court ruling last week to drop a case of possible indecency against a woman allegedly raped by two policemen.

"We just found out this morning that the prosecution has lodged an appeal," said the woman's lawyer, Bochra Belhaj Hmida. "It's their right, legally. There's nothing that can be said about that. But on the moral front..."

On Thursday, a Tunis judge dropped the case against the woman, whose identity has been kept secret.

Two officers are to face rape charges, while a third has been charged with extortion.

The 27-year-old woman faced possible indecency charges with her fiance based on the testimony of the policemen who say they discovered the couple in an "immoral position" before the alleged attack.

A judicial source had previously said officers caught the couple by surprise on September 3 while they were having sex in their car.

Two of them took the woman to a police car where they raped her in turn, while a third restrained and tried to extort money from her fiance at a bank cashpoint, the source added.

A magistrate questioned the woman last month to decide whether to charge her with indecency, an offence that carries a jail sentence of up to six-months.

The case sparked a storm of protest in Tunisia, with rights groups, the media and opposition figures saying the proceedings had transformed the victim into the accused and reflected the Islamist-led government's attitudes and policy towards women.

The prime minister, Hamadi Jebali, from the ruling Islamist party Ennahda, said in October that the policemen would be "severely judged".

But he also said there may be a case of indecency to answer.

However, the president, Moncef Marzouki, then offered a state apology to the woman.

Since the Islamists' rise to power after last year's revolution, feminist groups have accused police of regularly harassing women, by challenging them over their clothing or for going out at night unaccompanied by family members.