Kairouan - The trial for the Tunisian member of the
Ukrainian feminist group Femen opened Thursday in the religious center of
Kairouan amid protests accusing her of attacking Islam.
Amina Tyler appeared in court smiling and enveloped in a
white robe and was questioned by the judge over her possession of pepper spray,
the basis of the charge of carrying an incendiary object.
Outside at least 200 protesters, many religious
conservatives, chanted slogans against Tyler, accusing her of attacking the
city and insulting Islam. They also shouted insults at the defense lawyers and
accused them of "sullying" the image of the city, a center for
religious pilgrimage and home of Tunisia's holiest mosque.
Tyler scandalised Tunisia in March by posting online photos
of herself topless with the slogan "my body is my own" written on her
She went into hiding because of death threats but reemerged
May 19 in Kairouan where she scrawled "Femen" on a wall near the
city's main mosque, the same day police stopped a group of ultraconservative
Muslims from holding their annual conference, resulting in clashes and tear
Tyler was detained by police as an angry mob gathered.
Her lawyers argue that the 1894 statute should not apply to
her can of pepper spray.
Tyler told the judge that she had been given the pepper spray
by a foreign journalist for her own protection and had been carrying it for the
last two months. The judge adjourned the session to deliberate on the charge.
Lawyers saying they represented the city petitioned the
judge that Tyler be given the more serious charge of threatening the security
of the city, but their request was turned down.
Tyler's father was present in court and expressed his
support for his daughter.
"I am proud of my daughter who has honoured the rights
of women," Mounir Sboui told The Associated Press. "Maybe her acts
were rash, but this is her way of expressing these ideas."
Tyler's case is the latest flashpoint in the battle over
Tunisia's identity after the overthrow of the secular dictatorship in January
2011 saw the rise of ultraconservative Islamists known as salafis pushing for
The case attracted attention in Europe and three members of
Femen, two French and a German, demonstrated topless in front of Tunis' court
building Wednesday, calling for Tyler's release. They were arrested and
remained in custody.