- Associated Press - Thursday, November 17, 2011

TUNIS, TUNISIA (AP) - The trial in Tunisia over the broadcasting the animated Iranian film “Persepolis” was cut short Thursday after an uproar in the courtroom.

Lawyers for the two sides shouted at each other and exchanged insults inside the courtroom, prompting the judge to adjourn the trial until Jan. 23.

The controversy over the film illustrates how Tunisia, the country that started the wave of uprisings that have swept through the Arab world this year, is struggling to work out the role of Islam in society after years of officially enforced secularism.

The privately owned Nessma television station provoked an angry reaction last month when it broadcast a dubbed version of Iranian director Marjane Satrapi’s award-winning adaptation of her graphic novels about growing up during Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The film, which won the jury prize at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, contains a scene showing a character representing God. Depictions of God are considered sacrilege in Islam.

Critics accused station owner of Nabil Karoui of trying to inflame a tense pre-election environment in Tunisia and several suits were filed against him. Karoui is accused of “attacks against sacred values and morals and disturbing the public order.”

In addition to the demonstrations, many of which had to be confronted by tear gas, Karoui’s home was attacked by a mob wielding petrol bombs.

“I am very sad when I see that the people that burned my house are free while I am here because I broadcast a film which was authorized,” he told journalists outside the courtroom.

He described the trial against him and his station as the beginning of the “death of freedom of expression.”

While being questioned by the judge, Karoui apologized for those insulted by the film and maintained the broadcast was in good faith.

It was during his testimony that lawyers for the two sides began hurling insults at each other prompting the judge to adjourn the session after calm could not be restored.

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