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Tunisian court orders fine on TV station owner

Associated Press Modified: May 3, 2012 at 8:16 am •  Published: May 3, 2012

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — A Tunisian court on Thursday convicted the head of a private TV station for disrupting public order and violating moral values by airing an animated film that some religious leaders say insults Islam.

The court in Tunis ordered Nabil Karoui to pay a 2,400-dinar (€1,200, $1,575) fine because his station, Nessma TV, aired the animated film "Persepolis" in October.

The case has pitted liberals and defenders of media freedom against hard-line Islamic groups who say that the film, which includes a depiction of God, is sacrilegious. The legal battle has underscored a struggle between secularists and Islamists the North African nation after last year's overthrow of its longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the first Arab Spring uprising.

In its ruling Thursday, the court convicted Karoui of causing "troubles to the public order" and "offense to good morals" but threw out a charge of "offense against a sacred item," according to defense lawyer Abada Kefi.

The lawyer said he would appeal the verdict.

Karoui, reached by The Associated Press, called the ruling a negative signal that "strikes a blow not only at freedom of expression, but creative freedom."

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