A Tunisian appeals court has ruled that the prosecution of a queer activist in a landmark LGBTQ case is “null and void,” an NGO and a judicial spokesman said Tuesday.
The decision in the case known as “students of Kairouan”, concerns only Daniel, the nickname of the activist present at the hearing of December 19, the other five Tunisian defendants having found asylum abroad
“It is a victory for Daniel and for us,” said the Tunisian Association for Justice and Equality (Damj) in a message to AFP.
The prosecution was dropped because of a procedural defect “because the police had opened the computer” of Daniel without judicial authorization, said AFP spokesman of the Court of Appeal of Kairouan (center), Riadh Ben Halima.
About thirty activists of the LGBTQ cause had gathered on the day of the appeal trial in front of the court of Kairouan, at the call of Damj and the Tunisian League of Human Rights (LTDH).
They had called to “remove the article of shame”, referring to Article 230 of the Penal Code which punishes homosexual acts with a penalty of up to three years in prison.
The case dated back to 2015 when six students were arrested on charges of “sodomy”, before being sentenced to three years in prison and banned from the Kairouan region for another three years.
The following year, their sentence was reduced on appeal to 40 days in detention, but in 2018 the Court of Cassation reversed this verdict and sent the case back to appeal.
On December 19, Daniel told AFP that the hearing had gone “well”.
Article 230 dates back to 1913, under French colonization, but was retained in the legislation after independence in 1956.
This law also provides for an anal test, carried out by forensic doctors, denounced as “degrading and inhumane” by several NGOs which are calling for its abolition.
“For the first time,” according to Damj, the prosecutor's office requested on December 19 that the results of the anal tests be excluded from the prosecution case.
Since the 2011 revolution, LGBT+ activists have come out of the shadows in Tunisia, but their condition remains precarious, due to this repressive legislation and still violent social rejection.