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Journalist Slim Boukhdhir sentenced to one-year prison sentence following unfair trial, says OLPEC

(OLPEC/IFEX) - The following is an abridged version of an OLPEC press release:

Journalist Slim Boukhdhir sentenced to one-year prison sentence following unfair trial

On 4 December 2007, the district court of Sakiet Ezzit (Sfax) sentenced journalist Slim Boukhdhir to a one-year prison sentence and a 5 dinar fine (approx. 3 Euros) for "insulting behavior towards an official in the exercise of his duty" (eight months), "breach of accepted standards of good behavior," (four months) and "refusal to produce his identity papers to the police."

His lawyers raised several breaches of procedure and contradictions in the police statement but the court judge, Hatem Warda, chose to overlook them.

(. . . )

Police arrested Boukhdhir on the morning of 26 November while he was on his way to the Khaznadar police station, in the suburbs of Tunis, to recover his passport. Police officials had earlier refused to grant him a passport, for which he had staged a 15-day hunger strike in early November.

(. . . )

According to OLPEC, the trial constitutes a conspiracy to punish Boukhdhir for his articles on corruption published recently in the international press in which he implicated close relations of Ben Ali. This "punishment" is also meant to deprive him of his passport. The court has violated the obligation of neutrality by approving the police statement without taking into account the contradictions it contained. If Boukhdir's only infraction was refusing to present his identity card, the sanction by law is a 5 dinar fine (3 euros), and consequently nothing justified his arrest. OLPEC denounces this inequitable trial that is against freedom of the press in Tunisia and calls for the unconditional release of the journalist.

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