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Two months after his release, plainclothes police threaten journalist Slim Boukhdir

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is very concerned about independent journalist Slim Boukhdir following his arrest in the southern city of Sfax on the night of 20 September 2008 by four plain-clothes policemen, who threatened him because of his articles and then dumped him 10 km outside the city. It was the first serious incident since his release from prison in July.

"Boukhdir went back to work soon after coming out of prison," Reporters Without Borders said. "At first he wrote about his trying prison experiences, then he resumed writing his political columns. His commitment to free expression has not weakened despite serving seven months of an abusive 12-month sentence. Last weekend's attempt to intimidate him proves that both his work and his private life are still being closely monitored."

Boukhdir was arrested in Sfax (230 km south of Tunis) as he left an Internet café which he often visits in the early evening. Four policemen forced him into a car and initially drove him to a police station.

"We did not spend more than 10 minutes there," Boukhdir told Reporters Without Borders. "We left in the car again for an unknown destination. On the way, the four men told me I was lucky not to have been raped while in prison and that it was not always like that. They also threatened me with the same fate as Daif Al Ghazal [the Libyan journalist murdered in 2005]."

Boukhdir is becoming more and more concerned about his physical safety. "I would not be surprised if the authorities prosecuted me again on new trumped-up charges," he added.

BACKGROUND:
Aged 39, Boukhdir was arrested in Sfax on 26 November 2007 during an ID check of the passengers in a collective taxi bound for Tunis. He was summarily tried a few days later before a court in the Sfax suburb of Sakiet Ezzit and was sentenced to a year in prison on charges of "insulting behaviour towards an official in the exercise of his duty," "violating decency" and "refusing to produce identity papers."

Since his release on 21 July, Boukhdir has written more than 20 articles about Tunisian government human rights violations, including its censorship of the social networking website Facebook ( http://facebook.com ) and the arbitrary arrests of political and labour activists. Most of the articles were published on websites based abroad.

An article he wrote for the Egyptian website Al-Mesryoon ( http://www.almesryoon.com/ ) on 10 September, after a visit to Tunisia by US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, called on President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali to "step up the pace of political reforms." Read the article: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=28683

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