Rights to defence are scorned, Law rules are violated, and journalists are brutalised: RSF denounces the farcical trial of the journalist and political militant Hamma Hammami.
Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) is indignant that the nine-year and three-month imprisonment sentence was confirmed for Hamma Hammami, leader of the Tunisian labour communist party (PCOT) and publishing manager of the newspaper El Badil, together with two of his comrades on Saturday 2 February. " Rights to defence are scorned, Law rules are violated, journalists are brutalised and equipment seized: the trial of Hamma Hammami and two of his comrades was a pure farce. Once again, it shows the contempt of Tunisian authorities for freedoms and human rights. M. Ben Ali gave to the world new evidence that in Tunisia, the independence of justice was purely theoretical" asserted Robert Ménard, general secretary of the organisation. "We ask the European Union to impose immediate sanctions against Tunisia with which had been signed an agreement of association whose article 2 stipulates that observance of human rights is an essential element of the agreement. It would be scandalous that the European Union as well as the French authorities kept on supporting the police regime of M. Ben Ali who has been clamping down on opponents these last ten years" M. Ménard added. According to the information gathered by RSF, on the afternoon of February 2, the trial court of Tunis upheld the nine-year imprisonment sentence for Hamma Hammami, Abdeljabar Madouri and Samir Taamallah. During the first hearing, by the end of the morning, while many international observers were attending the trial, the attorneys of the three men refused to comply when asked by policemen to leave the room. Around 13h45, six policemen in plain clothes entered the court and grabbed the three defendants, before the whole audience. Oussaima, thirteen-year old daughter of Hamma Hammami, was brutalised as she was trying to protect her father. A little later, another session took place without observers. According to Nadia Hammami, Hamma Hammami's eldest daughter who was there, the judge came in and went out fifteen minutes later without having uttered the least word during that hearing. It is at a third hearing that the verdict was returned. Besides, on Friday 1st February, a team arrived to cover the trial for the French TV France 2 had a video-cassette seized and its equipment damaged. On Saturday 2 February, a cameraman working for the Franco-German TV Arte was brutalised in front of the courthouse, his camera was broken and his cassette confiscated. A cameraman working for France 3 was also handled roughly. Once Hamma Hammami, Abdeljabar Madouri and Samir Taamallah had left the underground, their lawyers had opposed, on 14 January 2001, the judgement returned in absentia on 14 July 1999, sentencing the three men to nine-year and three-month imprisonment to be enforced immediately. Since a new trial was announced, the presence of police forces around the courthouse of Tunis and of the Tunisian League for the defence of human rights (LTDH) had kept on increasing. On the evening of January 30, Mohseni Loumamba, journalist for the non-authorised monthly Kaws el Karama, had his head violently struck amid the street by policemen in plain clothes, after an editorial conference of the newspaper. On the 31st, a meeting for the support of Hamma Hammami had been prohibited by the police forces.