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Costly joke: Tunisia comedian on trial for mimicking president

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A popular Tunisian comedian, satirist and television host, Migalo, whose real name is Wassim Lahrissi is on trial for having ‘committed an offence against the head of state’.

He was put on trial on Wednesday, with two others; television host Moez Ben Gharbia and Abdelhak Toumi, in a case in which one them allegedly impersonated the president in a telephone conversation with a businessman.

The trio was arrested Friday. Ben Gharbia allegedly asked Migalo to use his impersonation skills to imitate President Beji Caid Essebsi during a telephone conversation with a prominent businessman. But lawyer Fethi Mouldi said his clients were “journalists who were investigating a corruption” case.

Defence attorney Mounir Ben Salha asked the court to dismiss the case and to free them.

He said he expected them to be acquitted, saying “there is no plaintiff, no victim and not one penny has been given or taken”. Mouldi also said President Essebsi had nothing to do with the case. “He is not a victim nor a plaintiff.”

Essebsi’s office promptly denied involvement in the proceedings, saying “freedom of the press and expression are acquisitions the president… is committed to defending, he being its principal guarantor.”

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