Last updated: 23 February, 2012

Tunisian editor in court over nude photo is freed on bail

The editor of a Tunisian newspaper hauled before a court for publishing a photo of Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira embracing his naked model girlfriend, was freed on bail Thursday.

The court ordered the release of Etounsia editor Nasreddine Ben Saida, in custody since February 15, pending his trial on March 8 on indecency charges.

Ben Saida denied during Thursday’s hearing that he sought to violate moral decency by publishing the photo in the newspaper’s February 15 edition.

“I had no intention of infringing moral decencies. This is about a well-known footballer and in addition, the photo had an artistic dimension,” he said.

One of his lawyers, Abderraouf Ayadi, told the court that “there is nothing to justify the arrest of my client, especially since the copies of newspapers were quickly recalled from the stands.”

Another lawyer, Chokri Belaid, said the arrest was a “political decision.”

“We know that at the moment in Tunisia, there is a combat between those who defend freedom and those who want to repress it,” he said.

“This trial is a major test for Tunisian justice, which we call on to show its independence and prove that it is not just applying any instructions,” he added.

Journalists attending the hearing in support of their colleague expressed relief at the release.

“We are happy and relieved, but we will continue our fight because this trial is a trial against the press in general,” said Nejiba Hamrouni, who heads the Tunisian journalists’ union.

For filmmaker Salma Baccar, “it’s a trial of shame.”

“I came to support the journalists and media because I think that this trial concerns all of Tunisian society and shows to which point we are moving towards a new form of political dictatorship,” she added.

She also accused the authorities of using the “pretext of morals and morality (to) … change the moderate and avant-garde side of Tunisia.”