Tunisia: harassing the critics

More harassment of the Tunisian regime’s critics:

Abdallah Zouari, a journalist for the Islamist newspaper al-Fajr, spent 11 years in jail for "membership in an illegal organisation" (al-Nahda party) and "attempting to overthrow the state". 

Following his release, he was forced to live in Hassi Djerbi, a remote village far from his family. The “administrative control” order confining him to the village officially ended in 2007. It was then verbally extended for another 26 months but without any legal basis. Since that expired, he has been technically free to travel but says he is constantly followed. Police cars have been parked outside his house day and night (see photographs), deterring visitors.

Last Tuesday, Zouari wrote a letter to the interior minister complaining about the surveillance but when he went to post it he was arrested and taken in for questioning. Human Rights Watchsays:

The police told him to sign an affidavit saying he would not write articles that "defame the state and threaten its security." He refused. Then they threatened that if he did not stop his journalistic and human rights activities, they would release a film purporting to show him engaged in sexual activity. The police also insulted him repeatedly and threatened physical violence. They released him at 10pm without charge ...

Zouari is not the first human rights activist whom the authorities threatened with circulating images purporting to show the activist engaged in sexual acts. In 1993, fake pornographic photographs depicting the Tunis-based journalist and activistSihem Ben Sedrine began circulating, an apparent effort to smear her reputation and detract from her human rights work.

Meanwhile, Reporters sans Frontieres has news (in French) aboutthe hijacking of a Facebook page belonging to Mokhtar Yahiaoui, a human rights activist and former Tunisian judge.
On August 27 – the day Ben Ali announced he would be seeking another presidential term – hackers seized control of Yahiaoui’s Facebook account, deleted “all critical items” and posted slurs against various opponents of the regime.

Yahiaoui’s blog was also hacked, as was another belonging to Monef Marzouki, a former Tunisian political prisoner.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 21 September 2009.