It was the slap that started a revolution. When the Tunisian street trader Mohamed Bouazizi, 26, was slapped in the face by a female municipal inspector last December, he burned himself alive in protest and sparked a wave of anti-government riots that engulfed the Arab world.
The woman at the centre of the controversy has now denied hitting Bouazizi and claims she was wrongly imprisoned for four months. Fedia Hamdi, 46, who has not spoken publicly about the incident until now, says she had been used as a political pawn by the former Tunisian president, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.
“I feel I was a scapegoat," she said. “I feel there has been a grave injustice and it hurts me to think that no one wanted to listen to my story."
After 111 days of incarceration, Hamdi was freed by a tribunal in Sidi Bouzid last Tuesday after defence lawyers demolished the case against her. Hamdi was found innocent of all charges when it emerged in court that only a single person claimed to have seen the slap.