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Alleged Tunisian rape victim accused of 'indecency'

Hundreds of Tunisian activists are protesting in support of a woman who was allegedly raped by police and is facing indecency charges. The case is seen as a broader attack on women's rights in this Muslim country.

The case has drawn nationwide attention in Tunisia, where a moderate Islamist-led coalition is working on a new constitution after decades of dictatorship. How it will define women's rights is a thorny question.

Protesters gathered at the central Tunis courthouse Tuesday to denounce what they say are unfounded claims against the 27-year-old woman.

The woman is being questioned Tuesday by investigators, who will decide whether to pursue the accusations against her. Her fiancé also faces an “indecency” charge which carries a possible jail sentence of up to six months.

She says two police officers stopped her in a car and raped her on September 3. The police officers deny wrongdoing, and say she was engaged in immoral behavior with her fiancé when they stopped her.

"The whole world supports me. I ask you for your support too," the tearful women told AFP outside the courthouse on Tuesday.

The alleged rapists say they took the couple by surprise in an "immoral position" just before the rape purportedly took place.

The three policemen involved, who were arrested shortly afterwards and are awaiting trial, face heavy sentences if found guilty, with rape at least in theory risking the death penalty in Tunisia.

In practice, no one has been executed for more than 20 years. Several hundred protesters gathered outside the court early on Tuesday waving banners and placards and shouting slogans in support of the woman.

hc/jr (AFP, AP)