Tunisia confirms jail sentence on dissenting journalist

The Tunis appeals court confirmed a six-month prison sentence on a Tunisian journalist and vocal critic of President for allegedly assaulting a woman.

Tunisia confirms jail sentence on dissenting journalist

The Tunis appeals court confirmed Saturday a six-month prison sentence on a Tunisian journalist and vocal critic of President Zine El Abidine Ben for allegedly assaulting a woman, in a case rights defenders have slammed as politically-motivated.

"It is a scandalous verdict, a political decision", rights lawyer Radhia Nasraoui told journalists after the ruling on Taoufik Ben Brik.

Ben Brik had originally been sentenced on November 28 last year on charges of physically assaulting and insulting a 28-year-old businesswoman, Rym Nasraoui, after a traffic accident.

Two witnesses were cited but neither they nor Nasraoui ever gave evidence in court. Ben Brik was not present Saturday when the sentence was confirmed for "voluntary assault, damage to property and breach of good morals".

Ben Brik, 49, had protested his innocence throughout his trial last year, arguing he was the victim of a set-up by police because of his criticism of Ben Ali, elected in October for a fifth term after two decades in power.

He said he was arrested two hours after "the publication of an imaginary interview" with the president at the time when he was seeking re-election.

The decision "confirmed the total absence of independence in the Tunisian justice system", Ben Brik's lawyer William Bourdon said in a statement Saturday.

Ben Brik, currently detained in Siliana prison, 130 kilometres (80 miles) from Tunis, will remain there unless he receives a presidential pardon or appeals to the supreme court in the next ten days.

Ben Brik's wife and other members of his family said earlier this month they had started a hunger strike to press for his release on the grounds of his poor health.

It is "state terrorism", his wife Azza Zarrad said. "Once again we have a decision made by the state, not justice".

"To top it all off, this state is supported by European members of parliament who talk up the economic success of Tunisia and it is presented as a barrier against terrorism", she added.

"I will take legal action against the Tunisian government at the United Nations court," Azza Zarad, Ben Brik's wife, said.

"We are disappointed because we believe that Ben Brik is innocent," said Jean-Francois Julliard, secretary general of the media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders.


Agencies

Last Mod: 31 Ocak 2010, 16:21
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