The appeal trial of Jabeur Mejri, who recently was sentenced to jail for charges related to blasphemy, was postponed to next Monday, May 21st.
Mejri is one of the two Tunisian men sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for posting caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed and manuscripts critical of Islam online.
Ghazi Beji, the other convicted man, fled the country before the trial. According to Tunisian lawyer and human rights activist Bochra Haj Hmida, Beji is now under arrest in Romania.
Haj Hmida told Tunisia Live that Mejri’s defense team, of which she is a part, today asked the court to reduce the sentences, which they viewed as incommensurate with the severity of Mejri’s crimes.
“I personally find what he published shocking and unacceptable, but I also find that a sentence of seven and a half years is extreme,” stated Hmida. “If I were the judge I would’ve acquitted him, because it is unfair to punish them for infringing the rules when no debate or dialogue has taken place within society to reach a consensus over the limits of freedom in post-revolutionary Tunisia.”
However, according to Hmida, the prosecution stated in deliberations today that they would not rethink the harshness of the previous sentence.
“Surprisingly, we found that the general prosecutor is calling for a more severe sentence,” stated Haj Hmida, who expressed her concern over the absence of media coverage of the case, and also the lack of a statement from the Tunisian League of Human Rights (LTDH).
Ines Mejri, the sister of Jabeur Mejri, said that her brother is mentally troubled and needs to receive medical treatments instead of being sentenced to prison.
“I find his behavior unacceptable. Apart from that, in our family we all know that Jabeur is disturbed. He never interacts with us, never eats with us…It is like he has his own world,” his sister told Tunisia Live.
Haj Hmida stated that Mejri’s family has asked the defense team to plead insanity in the upcoming appeal trial. The family recently asked the court to transfer Mejri from his jail cell to a mental hospital to receive treatment, but the court refused. Haj Hmida interpreted this refusal as a strategic move on the court’s part, seeing that a recognition of Mejri’s right to treatment would strengthen a case for insanity.