The director of the Tunisian private TV channel Nessma television, Nabil Karoui
A Tunisian court on Thursday imposed a 2400-dinar ($1550) fine on a television boss over blasphemy charges after a trial that deepened the division between Islamists and secularists.
The director of
Nessma television is accused of insulting sacred Islamic values by screening the French-American film “Persepolis,” which showed animated depictions of God.
Nabil Karoui was charged over the decision by his Nessma television station to broadcast the award-winning animated film that includes a scene depicting Allah, which is forbidden in Islam.
The fine was substantially less severe than the prison term that Karoui\'s Islamist opponents had been demanding. The charges carried a possible sentence of up to three years in prison.
Some Salafists, followers of an ultra-conservative school of Islam, have said the television boss should be executed.
“Persepolis” is an award-winning animated film directed by comic book writer Marjane Satrapi that tells the story of the Iranian revolution and the hardline Islamic regime of Ayotollah Ruhollah Khomeiny through the eyes of a precocious young girl.
The broadcast by Nessma TV on October 7 led to a wave of anger and violence, two weeks before Tunisia’s elections.
Groups of Islamic extremists tried on October 9 to attack the headquarters of the channel in Tunis and then turned their wrath on Karoui’s house a few days later.
Young Islamic radicals have asked for “Nessma to close down” and shouted during public protests “You, media cowards, know that religion mustn’t be defamed.”
Their opponents argued that they were defending the freedom of expression in a trial that was a test of Tunisia’s youthful democracy.
The Islamists have clashed with secularists who believe the values of modernity and individual freedom that shaped Tunisia for the past half century must be preserved.
They saw the prosecution of Karoui as an attack on freedom of expression, a position echoed by rights groups including Amnesty International.
Nessma’s head, Nabil Karoui had earlier said in January at the opening of his hearing: “I am sorry to be here today, this is a political trial.
It’s the trial of 10 million Tunisians who dreamed of having a democratic country.”
Hedi Boughnim, who dubbed the award-winning film into Tunisian dialect, was also fined 1200 dinars (about $750).