Tunisian Journalist Sentenced to One Year in Prison
Prominent Tunisian journalist Slim Boukhdir was sentenced to one year in prison on 4 December, revealing the unrestrained power of the Tunisian government to seek harsh and arbitrary punishments against opponents of the regime.
Leading organisations including Amnesty International and the Observatory for the Freedom of Press, Publishing and Creation in Tunisia (OLPEC) strongly suggest Boukhdir, a contributor to Al-Quds al-Arabi, recognised blogger and frequent target of plainclothes police in Tunisia, has been unjustly convicted of a series of trumped-up charges.
On 26 November he was accused of "insulting a public officer during the performance of his duties," "breaching public morality" and "refusing to show his identity card" after he failed to present papers at a "routine check." Ironically, Boukhdir was en route to the suburbs of Tunis to recuperate his passport, which was taken from him in the beginning of November.
The judge reportedly refused to admit vital facts and testimonies that would disprove all major charges. The events of the morning of 26 November, as relayed by authorities, are incongruous with Boukhdir's testimonies and even those of the prosecution witnesses.
Amnesty International said the government's agenda of deterring independent journalists and peaceful critics is the reason for this final injustice imposed on Boukhdir. The organization concludes that Boukhdir is not going to jail for his supposed offences but because of his articles laden of criticism of the authorities.
"What happened on 4 December is a parody of justice. It is clear that the sentence against Slim Boukhdhir was pronounced before the trial even opened. We feel as if those who rule the country cannot do without hostages. It was Abbou yesterday, today it is Slim. The civil society will mobilise all its efforts to obtain his release and as a consequence it will lose momentum on essential questions such as governance and freedoms," OLPEC Secretary General Sihem Bensedrine told RAP 21.