(BRUSSELS) – The European Union on Thursday said it was surprised by the “severity” of the four-month jail terms handed down by a Tunisian court to three radical European feminists who staged a topless anti-Islamist protest.

“As a general line, the EU does not comment on on-going legal proceedings,” said Michael Mann, spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

“However, the EU is surprised by the severity of the judgment, also taking into account recent rulings by Tunisian courts about violent actions carried out in the recent past.”

“More generally and beyond the Femen case, the EU wishes to recall its repeated pleas for the consolidation of freedom of expression, in line with the aspirations of the Tunisian revolution,” Mann said.

He added that the EU believed it was time to revise laws inherited from the previous regimes “which can be used to restrict” freedom of expression.

Berlin earlier said Germany was “worried” about the sentence while Paris said it regretted its severity.

The three members of the Femen group, Marguerite Stern and Pauline Hillier from France and Josephine Markmann from Germany, staged a bare-breasted protest on May 29, a first in the Arab world by activists from the group.

Held outside the main courthouse in Tunis, the protest aimed to show support for Amina Sboui, a Tunisian activist with the same “sextremist” group, arrested 10 days earlier.