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Tunisia: Woman Jailed for Posting Message on Facebook

(Aug. 12, 2009) It was reported on July 13, 2009, that a 69-year-old human rights activist, Khedija Arfaoui, was convicted on the charge of “disturbing public order” and sentenced to an eight-month prison term for posting a message on her Facebook page in reference to a rumor of children being abducted for their organs. (Eight-Month Jail Sentence for Message Posted on Facebook, CNW GROUP, July 13, 2009, available at The Criminal Code provision for the violation of which Arfaoui was convicted, article 121 (disturbing public order), states that “anyone stirring up rebellion by means of speeches in public places or meetings, or placards, posters or written texts is punishable as if they had participated in the rebellion.” (Id.)

The non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders issued a statement condemning the conviction, contending that the conviction was without any legal basis because Tunisia has no Internet laws, noting that this is the first time for Tunis courts to adjudicate a matter regarding a Facebook post, and pointing out that Arfaoui was not responsible for starting the rumor but wasmerely repeating one that was already out there. (Eight-Month Jail Sentence for Message Posted on Facebook, REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS, July 13, 2009, available at Arfaoui's attorneys maintain a similar position, claiming that the action of the court violates the principle of legality(a legal principle that holds thatonly actions or omissions that are defined by statute as criminal can be punished), because article 121 of the Tunisian Criminal Code is inapplicable, and that the crime for which Arfaoui was charged and convicted is not part of the Code; when there is no law, there can be no crime. (Id.)

It was said that Arfaoui was not aware of the charge pending against her until she read about it five days before her trial was due to start. Although she was represented by counsel in the second hearing, her attorneys were apparently denied access to the prosecution case file. (Id.)