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Tunisia's Islamic hardliners score victory in television trial

A Tunisian court yesterday convicted the head of a private TV station for disrupting public order and violating moral values by broadcasting an animated film that some religious leaders say insults Islam.

The court in Tunis ordered Nabil Karoui to pay a 2,400-dinar (£974) fine because his station, Nessma TV, broadcast the 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 in the North African nation after last year's overthrow of the dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. In its ruling yesterday, the court convicted Mr Karoui of causing "troubles to the public order" and "offence to good morals" but threw out a charge of "offence against a sacred item".

The defence lawyer, Abada Kefi, said he would appeal against the verdict, while Mr Karoui said, "You can't be half-guilty and half-innocent," adding that he feared the ruling's impact in other North African countries. The network is also shown in Algeria, Libya and Morocco.

Troops were deployed to separate rival protests over the film during the trial last month. Several hundred hard-line Islamists called for the TV station to be shut down, while a similar number of liberals backed Mr Karoui.