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IFEX-TMG condemns journalist Slim Boukhdir's imprisonment; calls for his release

(IFEX-TMG) - The following is an 18 January 2008 IFEX-TMG press release:

IFEX-TMG Condemns the imprisonment of Tunisian Journalist Slim Boukhdir and calls for his release.

The Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG), a coalition of 18 member organizations of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) network, condemns the unfair ruling issued on Friday by a Tunisian court of appeal confirming a one-year prison sentence against journalist Slim Boukhdhir.

Boukhdhir, a contributor to the London-based "Al Quds al Arabi" and websites blocked locally, appeared earlier today before a court of appeal in Sfax, Tunisia's second largest city, allegedly for "assaulting a government employee in the exercise of his duty" and "breach of decent behavior." At least ten lawyers urged the court to drop these charges which led a lower court on 4 December to hand him a one-year prison sentence. They also called for his immediate release after explaining that Boukhdhir's main crime was independent journalism.

"It's obvious that the court has been instructed to issue such a vindictive and politically motivated verdict," said Mohamed Abbou, a prominent human rights lawyer and former prisoner of opinion, who observed the trial on behalf of TMG.

Boukhdhir's arrest occurred on 26 November in Sfax, while on his way to Tunis for a scheduled meeting with a police officer handling his application for a new passport.

Boukhdir went on hunger strike in November and December respectively to protest the Tunisian authorities' denial to issue his passport and to protest the squalid prison conditions and harassment by prison guards and inmates.

"It is saddening that our call on the eve of the trial asking the Tunisian government to stop using the judicial system to silence and punish its critics fell on deaf ears," said TMG Chair Rohan Jayasekera of Index on Censorship. "We reiterate our call on the Tunisian authorities to immediately release Slim Boukhdhir, and stop turning their back on their commitment to abide by international standards for freedom of expression."

Members of the IFEX-TMG:

Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRINFO), Egypt
ARTICLE 19, United Kingdom
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), Canada
Cartoonists Rights Network (CRN), United States
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), Egypt
Index on Censorship, United Kingdom
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Belgium
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), Netherlands
International Press Institute (IPI), Austria
International Publishers' Association (IPA), Switzerland
Journaliste en danger (JED), Democratic Republic of Congo
Maharat Foundation, Lebanon
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Namibia
Norwegian PEN, Norway
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), Canada
World Association of Newspapers (WAN), France
World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC), United States
Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC), United Kingdom

IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group

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