SHAFAQNA- Two Tunisian policeman convicted of raping a woman in a police car have had their sentences more than doubled in a high-profile court case.
The officers were jailed for seven years in March, drawing accusations of leniency.
The sentences were extended to 15 years on Thursday after an appeal by the victim, known as Meriem Ben Mohamed.
Her lawyer described the verdict as “a great step forward” in the way rape cases are prosecuted in Tunisia.
She told the AFP news agency she was “satisfied” the penalty had been toughened.
“But it’s still not enough, in my view, for the filthy crimes which they committed,” she said.
Speaking to AFP, defence lawyer Sami Rebai described the sentences as “excessive”, without saying if the policemen would appeal to a higher court.
Meriem Ben Mohamed was attacked in 2012 after officers stopped her in a car with her boyfriend in a suburb of the capital, Tunis. She was 27 at the time.
The accused policemen denied the charges, saying they found the couple in an “immoral position”.
Officials originally tried to prosecute the couple for indecency, triggering angry protests and a campaign in support of the victim.
It prompted Tunisia’s President Moncef Marzouki to offer Meriem a state apology.
A third officer, who tried to extort money from Meriem’s boyfriend at a bank cash machine, had his two-year prison sentence upheld on Thursday.
A psychologist’s report seen by AFP said the ordeal caused Meriem to suffer “depression aggravating a state of post-traumatic stress”.
The case comes amid renewed focus on women’s rights following the 2011 uprising that toppled long-time ruler Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali from power.
Secular Tunisians, especially women, are worried about the growing influence of ultra-conservative Islamists since the uprising.
A first round of voting in the country’s presidential elections is due to take place on Sunday.
The polls will be the first since the country adopted a new constitution, which includes a clause guaranteeing gender equality in legislative assemblies and puts a burden on the state to protect women against violence.