TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — A Tunisian court on Thursday convicted two veiled students of destroying public property at the office of a university dean they accused of slapping one of them.
The court dropped the case against the dean of the faculty of humanities at Manouba University, ruling that there was no proof of an assault. The university forbids face-covering veils in classes and at exams.
The court handed down suspended prison sentences for the women of four and two months. The lawyer for the women, Anouar Ouled Ali, said he plans to appeal the ruling.
Manouba University has been one of the most visible flashpoints of the struggle in post-uprising Tunisia over the role of religion in public life. The March 2012 incident triggered demonstrations at the university on the outskirts of Tunis by Salafis, who follow an ultraconservative reading of Islam. At one point, the university suspended classes for nearly two months.
The dean, Habib Kazdaghli, said the trial was "emblematic" because it represented a "challenge to the rule of law" in Tunisia.
"I am proud of the justice in my country because it didn't cede to pressure," he said in a telephone interview with the AP.
"Students are free to wear the clothes of their choice outside the university, but in class their faces must be uncovered," he said.
Kazdaghli had said at the time that the accusations of the women were baseless and he was the one attacked. He told AP then that one of the women barged into his office and attacked him and his documents. He said he had to "push her away."