Hundreds of protesters have rallied in Tunisia’s capital to demand the release of a gay rights and democracy activist sentenced to jail for insulting police officers.
Rania Amdouni, a member of the human rights group Damj, Tunisian Association for Justice and Equality was arrested last weekend in Tunis. The 26-year-old was involved in protests calling for social and economic justice and against police abuse over the two last months.
Activists said Amdouni was increasingly targeted since February as she became a visible part of the daily demonstrations. Her photo was repeatedly posted on social media, particularly by police unions, accompanied by degrading comments and personal information, including her address, according to reports.
On Thursday, Amdouni’s lawyer Amine Hadiji said she was sentenced to six months in prison for insulting officers as she tried to lodge a complaint about police intimidation.
Protesters gathered on the landmark Habib Bourguiba Avenue in central Tunis on Saturday, demanding “freedom for Amdouni” and other Tunisians arrested during the recent demonstrations.
They carried pictures of Amdouni and signs saying “never retreat, never surrender the resistance” and “freedom is a must”.
“Rania is one of us and the sentence against her is unjust,” a young protester who gave only her first name, Balqis, told the AFP news agency.
Protester Emna Sahli said demonstrators wanted the release of all Tunisians arrested during protests over the past two months.
“A large number of people have been arrested. This has never happened even during the dictatorship,” Sahli said, referring to the rule of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Ben Ali was removed 10 years ago during the Arab Spring uprising that began in Tunisia before spreading to other regional countries, where leaders were also unseated.
Tunisia has often been praised as a rare success story for its democratic transition, but its political system is still mired in squabbling between the president, prime minister and Parliament as the economy stagnates.
Protesters have been demonstrating in Tunisia since January 15, the day after the 10th anniversary of the revolution, calling for social equality and access to jobs, among others.
More than 1,000 demonstrators were arrested, according to human rights groups, and although some have been released, others are still being held in jail.