Tunisia appeal doubles jail terms of 2 police rapists

TUNIS (AFP) - A Tunisian court sentenced two policemen to 15 years' jail on Thursday for the rape of a woman who was herself almost put on trial, in an appeal that doubled their initial penalty.

Monia Bousselmi, a lawyer for the victim, hailed the ruling as "a great step" forward for such cases in the Muslim country.

The two policemen had been handed seven-year sentences in March for the 2012 rape, drawing accusations of leniency in the case, which captured international attention for the victim.

The young woman, who uses the pseudonym Meriem Ben Mohamed, told AFP she was "satisfied" the penalty had been toughened.

"But it's still not enough, in my view, for the filthy crimes which they committed." Defence lawyer Sami Rebai described the sentence as "excessive", without saying if the policemen would appeal to a higher court.

The policemen had denied the charge, instead accusing the woman of seeking to have sex with them.

A third officer was given two years for trying to extort money from the woman's boyfriend, a sentence which was upheld on appeal.

The defendants said they had found the woman and her boyfriend having sex in their car in a Tunis suburb.

According to the charges, they took the woman to a police car, where two of them took turns to rape her, while the third tried to extort money from her fiance at a bank cashpoint.

The public prosecutor originally tried unsuccessfully to bring indecency charges against the couple, sparking a storm of protest and a campaign of support for the woman who was 27 when the assault took place.

The victim published a book in France entitled Guilty Of Being Raped about her ordeal.

On Thursday, before the verdict was announced, the woman told AFP that the policemen "had killed" her dreams.

"They turned my life upside down."

Meriem confronted the two policemen in court on Monday and told them: "You raped me", accusing the third of failing to assist her and stopping her fiance from helping her, her lawyer said.

A psychologist report seen by AFP indicates that two years after her ordeal, Meriem suffers from depression and post-traumatic stress.