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Tunisian police convicted in woman's rape

Tuesday - 4/1/2014, 8:54am  ET

Tunisian women demonstrate outside a Tunis courthouse where three police officers face charges of rape of a 27-year-old woman, Monday, March 31, 2014. The 27-year-old woman says three police officers stopped her in a car in September, and one of them held her fiance back while the other two raped her. The police officers deny wrongdoing, and allege the couple had been engaged in "immoral" behavior. Posters read: at left, 'State Crime, State Rape', and at right 'Rape is right when police is guilty'. (AP Photo/Aimen Zine)

Associated Press

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) -- Two Tunisian police officers were convicted of raping a young woman and sentenced to seven years in prison in a case that drew widespread protests after the victim was initially accused of immoral behavior. A third officer received a two-year sentence for extorting money from the woman's fiance.

The officers came upon the woman, then 27, and her fiance in a car in September 2012. She said two of the men took turns raping her while the third held her fiance back, then forced him to withdraw money from an ATM.

An initial decision to charge the woman with violating Tunisia's modesty laws drew widespread protests in Tunisia, where the case was closely watched for signs of how women's rights would fare after the 2011 fall of the secular dictatorship. Those charges were ultimately dropped, and the victim published a book entitled "Guilty of Being Raped," under the same pseudonym she used in the courtroom.

But the sentences late Monday of the officers drew criticism from the woman's lawyer, a human rights activist in Tunisia who said they were far too lenient.

"It's scandalous," said Radhia Nasraoui. "They denied everything. They even had the nerve to suggest that she was making advances on them."

Protesters gathered outside the courtroom on Monday ahead of the verdict.

Both the woman's accusation against police and the ensuing public uproar would have been unthinkable under longtime autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted in 2011. Concerns that women would continue to suffer under the new leadership eased with the passage this year of a constitution that guarantees equality between men and women before the law and committed the government to protecting women's rights.

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