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Imprisoned journalist threatened with knife by fellow inmate

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders wrote to Tunisia's director-general of prisons and reeducation, Nabil Kalboussi, on 30 May 2008 expressing its concern for the physical safety of journalist Slim Boukhdir in Sfax prison (230 km south of Tunis), where he is serving a one-year sentence.

"We are horrified to learn that a fellow inmate armed with a knife was left alone in a cell with Boukhdir on 27 May," the letter said. "This non-political detainee threatened to stab Boukhdir several times. Guards posted near the cell did not intervene although Boukhdir repeatedly shouted for help. Boukhdir was left for more than an hour with this reputedly dangerous man, who was put in Boukhdir's cell in order to terrorise him."

The letter added: "It is your duty to ensure the safety of detainees. We would hold you responsible if anything at all were to happen to Boukhdir. It is furthermore unacceptable that he is being denied even the minimal conditions of hygiene. Despite contracting scabies as a result of the lack of cleanliness in the prison, he still has not been allowed to use its communal showers."

The incident with the armed inmate came several days after the publication of a letter about conditions in the prison which Boukhdir dictated to his wife during one of her visits. "I have always known that I would end up in prison," the letter began. "I knew the Tunisian regime would reserve this fate for me sooner or later."

Boukhdir was arrested during a police ID check as he was leaving Sfax to return to Tunis on 26 November 2007. A district court in Sakiet Ezzit, on the outskirts of Sfax, sentenced him to a year in prison on 4 December 2007 on charges of "insulting behaviour towards an official in the exercise of his duty," "violating decency" and "refusing to produce identity papers."

Reporters Without Borders wrote to more than 20 foreign embassies in Tunis on 27 May asking them to show their support for Boukhdir by receiving his family members.

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