Tunisian court frees prominent women's activist

FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators protest to mark the anniversary of a prominent activist's death and against allegations of police abuse, in Tunis, Tunisia February 6, 2021. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

TUNIS (Reuters) - A Tunisian appeals court released on Wednesday a prominent women’s rights defender and LGBTI activist who had been jailed on charges of “insulting police and abuse of morals”, her lawyers said, in a case that raised concerns about freedom of expression.

Rania Amdouni, 26, a member of the human rights group Damj, Tunisian Association for Justice and Equality was arrested this month in Tunis, the country’s capital.

Amdouni had been involved in protests, calling for social and economic justice and against police abuse.

“We are happy that Rania was freed today by the appeal court, but our concerns about freedoms continue, because for months Rania has been subjected to harassment by some Facebook pages of police unions,” the lawyer Yassin Azzaza told Reuters.

Activists said Amdouni had increasingly been targeted since February as she became a visible part of the daily protests in the capital.

“Rania Amdouni’s arrest and prosecution sends a chilling message to activists who face harassment that if they dare to come forward to report police abuse they risk being turned from victim to accused,” Emna Guellali, deputy director for the MENA at Amnesty International, said on Tuesday.

Protesters have been demonstrating in Tunisia since Jan. 15, the day after the 10th anniversary of the revolution, calling for social equality and access to jobs.

The police arrested more than 1,600 people during the protests, and dozens of them have complained of ill-treatment and torture. Tunisian authorities denied the accusations and said the police performed well.

Reporting by Tarek Amara; editing by Barbara Lewis