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Tunisian lawmaker who appeared to defend French teacher's beheading faces investigation

Teen suspected in beheading of Paris teacher
Teen suspected in beheading of Paris teacher 02:02

Tunisian authorities said Monday police are investigating a lawmaker who in a Facebook post appeared to defend the beheading of a French teacher who had shown his pupils satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Teacher Samuel Paty, who used the cartoons during a lesson on freedom of expression, was murdered in the street outside his school, sparking outrage and countrywide rallies supporting freedom of expression in France.

Tunisian MP Rached Khiari, an independent aligned with the Islamist movement Karama which is part of the North African country's governing coalition, wrote on Facebook the next day: "Insulting the prophet of God is the greatest of crimes and anyone who commits it, whether a state, a group or an individual, must accept the consequences."

His comments sparked a heated social media debate in Tunisia.

Mohsen Dali, a Tunis prosecutor, told AFP that a court had charged "a team specialized in terrorism with looking into the content of the post", although a full judicial enquiry has not yet been opened.

Khiari has said he is ready to give up his parliamentary immunity.

Tunisia's Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi voiced his condolences in a Saturday phone call with his French counterpart Jean Castex, stressing that Tunisia rejects "all forms of extremism and terrorism" and defends the right to "freedom of expression and belief."

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Undated file photo of teacher Samuel Paty.  Twitter via Abaca/Sipa USA/AP Images

Paty had shown his pupils some of the Mohammed cartoons over which 12 people were massacred at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015.

Depictions of the Prophet Mohammed are seen as offensive by many Muslims, but in France such cartoons have become identified with a proud secular tradition dating back to the Revolution.

In the aftermath of Paty's murder, Macron issued a passionate defence of free speech and France's secular values, vowing that the country "will not give up cartoons."

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