Topless feminist protesters calling for the release of fellow Femen activists detained in Tunisia have taken their protest to Berlin. The women, urging Chancellor Merkel to take up their case, were removed by police.
The protest coincided with a visit to Berlin on Friday by Tunisian Prime Minister Ali Larayedh and came in response to the detention and trial of three Femen demonstrators who were arrested in the North African country.
The women staged their demonstration outside the German chancellery, ahead of a meeting there between the Tunisian premier and Merkel.
Before they were removed, the women repeatedly chanted "Merkel free Femen." Two of the activists had the names of the jailed Femen members painted in black ink across their chests.
Police dragged the protesters away from the iron security fence around the building, but said the women had not been arrested. However, they said, possible charges of breaking German public assembly laws were being investigated. Officials did not give the nationalities of the women, but said they were not German.
The women were calling for Merkel to press the case of three women - one German and two French - who are on trial in Tunisia after demonstrating topless outside the Palace of Justice in the capital, Tunis. The three detained activists were themselves calling for the release of a Tunisian group member, Amina Sboui.
'Blown out of proportion'
Merkel told reporters after the meeting that the matter had been discussed. "We spoke about it and said that we from the German perspective hope for a fair and reasonable approach to the proceedings under the rule of law," she said. "We articulated our expectations knowing that the government and the justice system are different state institutions."
Larayedh said the protesters who had been detained were being treated fairly and that the incident was being blown out of proportion.
"I cannot speak for the justice system and do not wish to comment on their decisions," he said. "But I consider the events until now to be fair and hope the actions of the justice system continue to be fair."
Sboui caused outrage Tunisia when she posted topless photos of herself in an appeal for women's rights.
Despite the country being ruled by the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, Tunisia is considered to have the some of the most liberal laws of any Arab state in relation to women's rights.
rc/dr (AP, AFP, dpa)