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 Updated: June 19, 2013

Tunisia terrorists get 5 years for burning Sufi shrine

By: Mohamed Ali

TUNIS: A Tunisian court has sentenced six radical Islamists to five years in prison for torching a Sufi Muslim shrine.

Last October, Salafist Muslims descended upon Saida Manouba, a famous Sufi shrine in Tunis, setting it alight and attacking visitors. Salafists, whose ultraconservative ideology is followed by al-Qaeda, consider that venerating saints and their shrines is blasphemous and contrary to Islam.

"It's the first time such a sentence has been pronounced. It shows that the law can be applied in Tunisia when the political will exists," Mohamed El Heni, one of the country's Sufi union's leaders, told AFP.

Two of the six defendants sentenced by the court on Monday were tried in absentia as they are on the run, local media reported.

Sufi Muslim leaders in Tunisia have said around 40 sites were ransacked by Salafists in recent months, prompting the government to promise emergency measures to protect mausoleums and shrines.

But secularists say the Ennahda party, the Tunisian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood which governs in coalition with secular parties, has been too lenient on the Salafists, giving them the confidence to step up their demands.


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