MEPs urge Tunisia to release student jailed for ‘homosexual acts’

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Tunisia has been urged to free a 22-year-old man who was jailed for having gay sex.

The man, known only by the pseudonym ‘Marwan’, was sentenced to a year behind bars last month, after an archaic anal exam supposedly ‘proved’ that he had engaged in anal sex.

The case comes after a Swedish man was jailed earlier this year in the country for homosexual acts.

MEPs from across Sweden, Germany and Scotland this week delivered a letter to the Tunisian Justice Minister Mohamed Ali Ben Aissa, urging for Marwan’s release and a change to the law.

Scottish National Party MEP Alyn Smith delivered the letter alongside German Green Barbara Lochbihler, and Swedish Green Bodil Valero.

Alyn Smith said in a statement: “Tunisia is, in many ways, a progressive, liberal but still fragile democracy, and we are here to support this still new democracy and see what the people of Tunisia need when too many EU and EU member state politicians are more interested in simply extending the EU’s considerable border problems Southwards.

“We can do better than that. We must be more pragmatic, migration and refugees are a long-standing crisis and are not going to be solved unless we work with our partners in the region.

“But we can also be vocal on other issues, and on LGBT rights as a gay man myself I find the legal situation in Tunisia unacceptable, and out of keeping with the image and standards Tunisia seeks to be known for.

He continued: “I think with real leadership we could see the offending, offensive and outdated, given it comes from Colonial times, article of the Constitution consigned to history. This would give Tunisia a much deserved position of leadership in the region.

“We have seen some movement with civil society putting in a lot of work, and it seems the Justice Minister is a man we can do business with.

“I hope he will, firstly, release Marwan immediately, secondly, end the practice of such degrading examinations and thirdly, set in train a process whereby Tunisia becomes the first Arab country to decriminalise LGBT life.”

Belgian man Ronny De Smet was sentenced to three years in prison for ‘attempted homosexual seduction’ in 2013, after a police sting operation. He was released three months later.