A forum devoted to current political, economic trends, and news of the Maghreb region.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Human Rights Violations in Tunisia

Human Rights Watch recently criticized the October arrests and recent convictions of two journalists in Tunisia. Pursuant to what many have condemned as unfair trials, Tunisian authorities convicted journalists Taoufik Ben Brik of assaulting a female motorist and sentenced to six months in jail. Ben Brik, who launched a hunger strike early in December, has maintained his innocence and accused the police of a set-up to silence his criticism of the government. Zohair Makhlouf (see picture) was sentenced to three months in jail and a $4600 fine for what the authorities charged as "harming a third party by way of a public telecommunications network." Makhlouf is accused of publishing photos without third party consent. Makhlouf is the editor of el-Mawkif, an opposition daily for the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), and has in the past exposed the Tunisian state's violation of human rights.

Trials for both Ben Brik and Makhlouf were derided as mock trials, in which the two never had adequate access to legal counsel and were summarily sentenced in short trials. Ben Brik's trial, for instance, only lasted three hours. Human Rights watch lists several other cases of journalists and human rights activists who were denied their defendant rights, and have been subjects to a systematic "vengeful campaign [by president Ben 'Ali] to punish the few journalists and human rights activists who dared to question his record during the election," according to Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director of Human Rights Watch.

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