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Journalist Slim Boukhdir denied ID papers after release from prison

(RSF/IFEX) - On 26 August 2008, Reporters Without Borders wrote to the Tunisian interior minister urging him to intervene in the case of journalist Slim Boukhdir who has been deprived of his national ID card since leaving prison in July and whose passport was seized in 2004.

The 39-year-old journalist was a correspondent for the pan-Arab London-based newspaper "al Quds al Arabi" and for the website of Satellite television station al-Arabiya ( ), as well as posting articles on websites, particularly Tunisnews ( ) and Kantara ( ).

"Sentenced to one year in prison in December 2007 after a trial on charges which we have always seen as groundless, he was released four months early, on 21 July this year," the worldwide press freedom organisation said in its letter to Rafik Belhaj Kacem, minister for the interior and local development.

"This early release, a sign of goodwill on the part of your government, has not however put an end to the journalist's problems," it said. "On leaving prison, Slim Boukhdir was not allowed to have his national ID card back, although it is vital for his daily life, in particular for any bank transaction."

"We also want to remind you that he has been deprived of his passport for four years. On the day of his arrest, on 26 November 2007, he was travelling to Tunis to try to reclaim it," the organisation said. "He had previously gone on a two-week hunger strike to protest at your administration's refusal to return it".

"We believe that Slim Boukhdir has been the victim of several injustices. Having spent 238 days in prison, the journalist now wants to take up his work as a journalist again. We urge you to intervene so that he can get back his national ID card as well as his passport," the organisation concluded.

The journalist was arrested during a check on ID papers of passengers using a collective taxi between Sfax and Tunis. He was immediately taken before a cantonal court in Sakiet Ezzit in the Sfax suburbs and sentenced, at the end of an unfair trial, to a year in prison for "insulting an official in the exercise of his duties", "breach of accepted standards of decency" and "refusing to produce identity papers for police".

He endured harsh conditions during his time in jail, including poor hygiene, the threat of physical harm from his fellow prisoners and deprivation of letters and independent newspapers.

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