Tunisian woman who joked about coronavirus using Quran image sentenced to prison

Tunisian woman who joked about coronavirus using Quran image sentenced to prison
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A Tunisian woman who joked about the coronavirus on social media using images in the style of the Quran was sentenced to six months in jail and a $700 fine this week.

Emna Chargui, 27, shared a post on Facebook earlier this year with a short "wash your hands" message framed in green contours and surrounded with virus symbols, mimicking the style of a sura, a Quranic verse, The New York Times reportedThe design, dubbed the "Sourate Corona," was reportedly made in France.

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Outcry over the case has led hundreds of activists online to share the same image alongside the hashtag "FreeEmnaChargui" to show solidarity. Activists and human rights organizations are wary that Chargui's case could set a bad precedent in Tunisia.

The communications director for Human Rights Watch in the Middle East and North Africa, Ahmed Benchemsi, called Chargui's ruling a "setback for freedom of expression in a country that has otherwise made great strides on the path to democracy."

Chargui said she received hundreds of messages threatening sexual violence and calls for her death following her post.

Her landlord ordered her family to leave the home they have rented in Tunis for a decade, "because he wants nothing to do with us," Chargui said.

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"I thought it was a good way to make people aware about washing their hands and be careful with the coronavirus, with a style that everyone know," she said in a phone interview with the Times Wednesday.

"I did not even think about how big this would get when I shared it," Chargui added.

Her lawyers have filed an appeal to this week's ruling.