Topless activists from the Ukrainian feminist group Femen protested on Tuesday against the detention of their colleagues in Tunisia by jumping on the car of the country’s new Prime Minister during his visit to Brussels.
Three European Femen activists have been jailed for public indecency in Tunisia. The Brussels protest came one day before their appeal was to resume in Tunis.
The protest saw three topless women covered with slogans such as “Free Marguerite” and “Free Josephine” throw themselves on the black BMW carrying Prime Minister Ali Laarayedh as he made his way to an appointment with EU President Herman Van Rompuy.
Security guards pulled the women off the car and held them back to allow Mr. Laarayedh’s convoy to proceed.
“The security process has worked properly”, commission spokesman Olivier Bailly said later, declining to comment further on the incident.
The protest occurred right after the premier met with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, who urged him to continue his country’s democratic transition, including drafting a new constitution and holding elections.
“Progress towards full and in-depth democracy requires daily and permanent work”, Mr. Barroso said.
“The EU will continue to accompany the Tunisian transition and will stay at the sides of all actors in the process of democratization”, Mr. Van Rompuy said.
Mr. Laarayedh acknowledged the EU’s concerns and thanked the bloc for its support.
Neither Mr. Van Rompuy nor Mr. Barroso specifically mentioned the jailing of the Femen activists, which had prompted earlier European criticism, although Mr. Van Rompuy said the European Union was keen to support judicial reforms that guarantee “fairness and the freedom of expression”. “We have always said that it’s very important to respect the importance of freedom of expression”, said Michael Mann, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. “That is in keeping with the spirit of the Tunisian revolution.” At the same time, he said, “It’s possible that provocation could perhaps be detrimental to that right of freedom of expression.”