Tunisia fines TV channel owner over controversial film

Salafists protest against Nabil Karoui, the owner of Nessma, outside a court in Tunis on 19 April 2012
Image caption The broadcast of the film angered some Muslims in Tunisia

The owner of a private Tunisian TV station has been fined for showing a controversial animated film.

The award-winning French-American film, Persepolis, has been denounced as blasphemous by radical Muslims.

The case of Nabil Karoui had been seen as an important test of free speech in Tunisia, where last year's popular uprising inspired the Arab Spring.

When the film was broadcast last October, Islamist militants attacked the offices of the TV station, Nessma.

Depicting Allah

The court has ordered Karoui to pay 2,400 dinars ($1,700; £1,000).

In its ruling the court said the judgement was for "broadcasting a film that disturbs public order and threatens proper morals".

A Nessma technician and another station official were also both fined 1,200 dinars.

The 2007 film recounts the Iranian revolution and its aftermath through the eyes of a young girl.

It also includes a scene depicting Allah, whose portrayal is forbidden in Islam.

The fine was substantially less severe than the prison term demanded by Karoui's Islamist opponents.

Some Salafists - followers of an ultra-conservative school of Islam - said the television boss should be executed.

The charges against him carried a possible sentence of up to three years in prison.

Karoui - who was not in court for the judgement - has described his case as a key test for freedom of expression in the country.

Speaking ahead of the verdict, Karoui that despite the case he believed the situation in Tunisia had improved.

"I don't think the situation is dramatic - we have hope and we are defending ourselves. We never had freedom of speech like this, since 50 years... we can talk, we can criticise the government, we can film the people who aggress us and sue them. Of course sometimes we win, sometimes we lose," he said.

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