Berlin police break up topless protest

BERLIN (AP) — Three topless protesters from feminist protest group Femen were dragged by police from outside the German chancellery Friday where they were pleading for Angela Merkel to push for the release of their fellow activists jailed in Tunisia.

The demonstration came ahead of Merkel’s meeting in the building with Tunisian Premiere Ali Larayedh. The women chanted “Merkel free Femen” repeatedly before being removed.

After the two leaders met, Merkel told reporters that they had discussed the issue and that she had “made clear the hope for a fair and reasonable handling” of the situation.

Larayedh downplayed the incident, while saying that he considered “the proceedings so far to be just.”

“This incident must not be blown out of proportion,” he said through a translator. “The rights of the youngsters are being protected.”

Two of the protesters in Berlin had painted the names of the activists jailed in Tunisia across their bare chests, while the third had “Free Femen” on her stomach.

Police said the three were not arrested, but they are investigating possible charges of violating German public assembly laws. Police did not immediately have information on the protesters’ nationality but said they were not German.

The women were demanding help for three Femen demonstrators — a German and two French women — who are on trial in Tunis for public indecency after demonstrating topless in front of Tunisia’s Palace of Justice. It was the Ukraine-based group’s first such protest in the Middle East.

The three activists were in turn calling for the release of a Tunisian member of the group, Amina Sboui.

Sboui scandalized the country by posting topless photos of herself protesting for women’s rights in March. She later attempted another protest May 19 in the religious center of Kairouan, where she was arrested.

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