Tunisia: blogger’s sentence upheld; fears for safety.


RAN 21/13 7 May 2013

The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International condemns the detention of blogger Jabeur Mejri, whose seven-and-a-half year sentence for expressing allegedly blasphemous views online was confirmed by the Court of Cassation on 25 April 2013. Mejri has been in prison since his arrest on 5 March 2012. PEN International considers Jabeur Mejri to be targeted solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Tunisia is a signatory. PEN calls for his immediate and unconditional release and urgently seeks guarantees of his safety in detention.

According to PEN’s information, blogger Jabeur Mejri was arrested on 5 March 2012 for using social networks to publicise a satirical book entitled The Illusion of Islam. On 9 March 2012, a primary court in Mahdia charged Mejri with “disturbing the public order and violating social morals” under article 121 (3) and 226 of Penal Code, and with “publishing articles which violate good morals” under article 86 of Communication Law. These laws were established by the Ben Ali regime. On 15 March 2012, a primary court in Mahdia (eastern Tunisia) sentenced him to seven and half years in prison. Mejri was also fined 1200 Tunisian Dinars ($790). The author of the book, writer Ghazi Beji, was also charged in the case but fled Tunisia and was sentenced to seven and half years in prison in absentia. Mejir, however, has been in prison since he was arrested on 5 March 2012. He has lost all appeals and, on 25 April 2013, the Court of Cassation upheld his sentence.

According to Mejri’s lawyer, he was tortured during his interrogation and was also attacked on several occasions inside the prison by other prisoners after news spread that he had “insulted Islam”. Mejri suffers from behavioural problems, and requests by his defence team for an examination of his mental state were refused by the court.

On 23 April 2013, a committee supporting Jabeur Mejri and Ghazi Beji published a letter from Mejri, written in his prison cell in Mahdia, in which he claims he has been subject to torture. Mejri wrote:

“There’s no freedom of expression here in Tunisia, it is dead…I am denied medicine to cure my illness and other rights. Seven years and six months is a long period to spend in a small, dark and gloomy place. Officers take pleasure in torturing me.”

For more information on the case please click here

Please send appeals:

• Condemning the harsh prison sentence handed down to blogger Jabeur Mejri solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to free expression;

• Calling for his immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Tunisia is a signatory;
• Expressing concerns for his safety, and seeking assurances that he is not being tortured or ill-treated in detention which violates Article 5 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights);
• Urging the Tunisian authorities to allow him access to immediate medical attention.

APPEALS TO:
President
Moncef Marzouki
Palais Présidentiel
Tunis, Tunisia
Fax: +216 71 744 721

Prime Minister
Ali Laarayedh
Place du Gouvernement – La Kasbah
Tunis 1020
e-mail : boc@pm.gov.tn

Minister of Justice
Nadhir Ben Ammou
Ministry of Justice
31 boulevard Bab Benat
Tunis 1006, Tunisia
e-mail : mju@ministeres.tn
Fax: +216 71 568 106

Minister of Human Rights and Transitional Justice
Samir Dilu
2 rue d’Alger 1000 – Tunis
Fax : +216 71 349 900
e-mail : boc@maffepa.gov.tn

And copies to:
Directeur général des prisons
Rue 8003, Appartement –L-
Espace de Tunis Monplaisir
Tunisia
Fax: +216 71 904 472


For further information please contact Ghias Aljundi at PEN International Writers in Prison Committee, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: ghias.aljundi@pen-international.org