BEIRUT

Middle East

Case against Tunisian woman raped by police dropped

Tunisian women shout slogans as they demonstrate in solidarity with the inhabitants of the southwestern town of Siliana on November 28, 2012, in Tunis.AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAID

TUNIS: Tunisian authorities on Thursday dropped a case of possible indecency against a young woman allegedly raped by two policemen, her lawyer said, adding the accused security officers would now face charges.

"The charges (against the woman) were dropped for lack of evidence and the judge has decided to (charge) two policemen for rape and a third for corruption," Bochra Belhaj Hmida told AFP.

The case was dismissed "against the woman and her boyfriend," another lawyer Emna Zahrouni said.

The 27-year-old rape victim faced possible indecency charges with her fiance based on the testimony of the alleged rapists, policemen who say they took the couple by surprise in an "immoral position" just before the attack purportedly took place.

A judicial source has previously said that the police had taken the couple by surprise as they were having sex in their car.

Two of them then took the woman to the police car, where they raped her, while a third restrained and tried to extort money from her fiance, the source added.

Last month a magistrate had questioned the woman, alleged raped on September 3, to decide whether she was to be charged with indecency.

The case sparked a storm of protest in Tunisia, with NGOs, media and opposition figures saying the proceedings had transformed the victim into the accused and reflected the Islamist-led government's policy towards women.

Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, from the ruling Islamist party Ennahda, said in October that the policemen, arrested shortly after the incident, would be "severely judged."

But he also said there may be a case of indecency to answer.

However, Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki in October offered a state apology to the woman.

"The Tunisian president received the young woman raped by the policemen... and after listening to the details of this painful case... he expressed total sympathy (with the woman) and offered a state apology," a statement from his office said.

Since the Islamists' rise to power after last year's revolution, feminist groups have accused police of regularly harassing women, by challenging them over their clothing or if they go out at night unaccompanied by family members.

The principle of gender equality, enshrined in the Personal Status Code that was promulgated in 1956 under Tunisia's first president, Habib Bourguiba, made the north African nation a beacon of modernity in the Arab world.

Ennahda, the Islamist party that heads the ruling coalition, was heavily criticised for proposing an article in the new constitution, since dropped, that referred to the "complementarity" of men to women, rather than their equality.

 

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