Tunisia court frees egg-throwing film director

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A Tunisian court on Tuesday freed on bail a film director detained last month for throwing an egg at the culture minister, one of his lawyers told AFP.

The Tunis court of first instance decided early Tuesday morning to free the film director Nasreddine Shili, who has been in custody since August 21, attorney Abeda Kefi said.

The egg attack on Culture Minister Mehdi Mabrouk took place at a memorial ceremony on August 16 to mark 40 days since the death of a fellow artist.

Earlier this month, the Tunisian judiciary also agreed to free on bail cameraman Mourad Meherzi, who was implicated in the same high-profile case after filming the incident. Meherzi insists he was only doing his job.

Shili and Meherzi, who are accused of planning an act of aggression against a public official, defamation, contempt of others, attacking public morals and drunkenness, are next due in court on October 11.

They risk jail sentences of up to seven years.

The case sparked a scandal earlier this month when a journalist, Zied el-Heni, was detained for accusing the public prosecutor of fabricating evidence implicating the cameraman in the attack.

Heni was freed on bail three days later.

The attack itself was reportedly in protest at the inadequate response by the culture minister, an independent in the coalition government headed by Islamist party Ennahda, to attacks on artists by extremists who deem their work offensive.

Ennahda is frequently accused by its critics of seeking to curb freedom of expression, a charge it strongly denies.

International rights groups had called for the charges against the cameraman to be dropped and accused the authorities of seeking to muzzle freedom of expression.

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