The head of a Tunisian television station whose broadcast of “Persepolis” sparked violent protests, said Wednesday he faced trial and up to three years in jail if convicted of offending Islamic values.The TV station was attacked at the time of the broadcast as well.
Nabil Karoui, the head of Nessma television, told AFP he was being prosecuted for having “violating sacred values, good morals and disturbing public order” by broadcasting the film in October.
If convicted, he faced up to three years in prison, he said.
“I am going to plead not guilty, of course,” he told AFP ahead of the trial opening on Thursday.
Nessma TV’s broadcast of the film on October 7, dubbed into the Tunisian dialect, provoked a wave of protests that included an attack on the station’s offices and violent street protests.
“Persepolis,” a globally acclaimed animated film on Iran’s 1979 revolution, offended many Muslims because of a scene showing a representation of God. All depictions of God are forbidden by Islam.
Karoui quickly apologised for the broadcast, but that did not stop the protests.
After an evening of street clashes on October 14, about 100 men firebombed Karoui’s home. He was not at home but his family had to flee.
Witnesses described the assailants, who were armed with Molotov cocktails, knives and swords, as members of the ultra-conservative Salafist sect.
The film’s showing came less than two weeks before historic polls on October 23 to elect a constituent assembly, the first since January’s overthrow of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Tunisia’s Islamist party Ennahda, which emerged as the largest party after the vote, condemned the violence but also denounced the broadcast of the film as a “provocation”.
Karoui said the case had been brought after a complaint filed by more than 140 lawyers.
“It is scandalous that I should be the one to appear when the people who burned my house down have been released,” he said.
“The new defenders of the moral order in Tunisia want to make an example of me. We are in a moral dictatorship even worse than under Ben Ali. Under the old regime I never had death threats,” he added.
The film itself looks very good; it is an autobiographical coming-of-age story about an Iranian woman who simply does not fit in. it has won a number of awards.
And here's how God looks in the movie: