Hamadi Jebali, director of the weekly Al Fajr, has been on a hunger strike since 13 January. Despite many calls for his release, the Tunisian authorities are continuing to turn a deaf ear.
Hamadi Jebali, director of the weekly Al Fajr, has been on a hunger strike since 13 January. According to his close relations, his state of health is very worrying. Despite many calls for his release, in Tunisia and abroad, the Tunisian authorities are continuing, as is the case with the cyberdissident Zouhair Yahyaoui, to turn a deaf ear. 'Apart from the very bad detention conditions of the two journalists, we are very worried about their health. We have asked president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali for the immediate and unconditional release of Hamadi Jebali and Zouhair Yahyaoui', said Robert Ménard, secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders. Hamadi Jebali, director of the weekly Al Fajr, the organ of the Islamic movement An Nahda, has been jailed since 1991 in an individual cell. A member of Reporters Without Borders who had asked to visit him at Enadhour prison in Bizerte (north of the country), met with a refusal on 6 February from the prisons general directorate. The journalist's barrister, Mohamed Nouri, was also turned down. His wife, Wahida Jebali, told the organisation she hadn't been allowed to see her husband 'directly' (without wire netting between them) for the first time until 25 January 2003. Madame Jebali also explained that her husband had been subjected to pressure by members of the State Security police to stop his hunger strike. Following the constant presence of police in front of her house, Wahida Jebali was obliged to go and live with her youngest daughter at her sister-in-law's in Sousse. The journalist's wife and daughters have today been stripped of their passport. Hamadi Jebali has been on a hunger strike since 13 January to protest against his detention conditions and demand his release. In 1992, he had been sentenced by Tunis Military Court to sixteen years imprisonment for 'belonging to an illegal organisation'. He had just finished serving a one-year prison term for publishing an article criticising the country's military courts system. On 6 February, as the family of Zouhair Yahyaoui, founder of the website TUNeZINE, were visiting him, thirty or so human rights militants and several journalists met in front of the prison where he is held (Borj el Amri, 30 km from Tunis). They demanded the release of the cyberdissident who had been on a hunger strike in January. Three directors of the Tunisian National Council for Liberties (CNLT), Sihem Bensedrine, Omar Mestiri and Abderraouf Ayadi, as well as a journalist from the German radio station WRD, Marc Thörner, were held for more than two hours in front of the prison after tens of policemen had dispersed the other militants. The German journalist's cassette was confiscated. On 10 July 2002, the Tunis Appeals Court sentenced Yahyaoui to two years' imprisonment for 'propagation of false news'. Plainclothes police officers had arrested him in a cybercafe on 4 June 2002. During his interrogation, he was subjected to three 'suspension' sessions, a means of torture by which a person is suspended by the arms with their feet barely touching the ground. Zouhair Yahyaoui wrote under the alias 'Ettounsi' which means 'The Tunisian' in Arabic. He founded the website TUNeZINE in July 2001 in an effort to circulate information on democracy and freedoms in Tunisia and publish opposition documents online. He was the first person to publish Judge Mokhtar Yahyaou's letter to the president denouncing the country's judicial system.