NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)-- The trial in the Tunisian capital of three European activists with Femen, an Ukrainian activist group, was adjourned on Wednesday until June 12 and the women remain in detention without an option for bail, AFP reported June 5. According to French lawyer Patrick Klugman, who came from Paris to represent the movement, the prosecution decided on a charge of debauchery rather than an attack on public morals, The Huffington Post reported. The three Europeans--two French known as Pauline and Marguerite and a German named Josephine--face up to six months in prison.They were arrested on May 29 after staging a topless protest before a court at the Palace of Justice in Tunis. It was the group's first such protest in the Arab world. The activists were showing support for Amina Sboui, a Tunisian Femen member, who has also used the name Amina Tyler. Sboui is being tried in the city of Kairouan for new charges of offending public decency and desecrating a cemetery, Tunisia Live reported June 5.
She was arrested on May 19 after painting the word "Femen" on the wall of a cemetery near the historic al-Okba mosque in Kairouan. She was protesting a gathering of Salafists, or religious fundamentalists, scheduled that day in the city that was eventually stopped by authorities. Sboui was convicted May 30 of possessing an illegal gas spray and fined about $182. Sboui caused controversy in Tunisia and the Arab-Muslim world after she posted topless pictures of herself online with the slogan "my body is my own" written in Arabic. On the day they were arrested the three European women waved banners and displayed messages on their bare chests in support of the Tunisian woman, BBC News reported June 5. The judge must decide at the next hearing on whether to allow several Islamist groups to participate in the trial as a civil party. The three women appeared in court wearing Tunisian traditional white veils known as safsari, BBC News reports. Femen describes itself as "fighting patriarchy in its three manifestations - sexual exploitation of women, dictatorship and religion," BBC News reports. Femen also reported on its official Facebook page today that Aleksandra Shevchenko, a founder of the organization, was arrested on June 4 at the Pasha Hotel in Tunis and deported to the Ukraine. In front of the Tunisian embassy in Paris, Femen activists along with Egyptian blogger Aliaa ElMahdi mocked Muslim prayer by staging a "topless prayer," according to their Facebook page. Elmahdi is a female Egyptian blogger who posted a naked picture of herself on the Internet after the fall of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, causing uproar in her country and the rest of the Arab world. Femen activist's trials have been a big topic on social media today. On Twitter, some Muslim women continue to reject Femen and its stated intention of freeing Muslim women from their oppressive Islamic and patriarchal culture.
The Washington Post reports that three Femen members were expelled from Tunisia on suspicion they were planning a topless protest in front of the court where their colleagues were being tried, according to the Interior Ministry.