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Former editor beaten by police after arriving in Tunis

(RSF/IFEX) - Hamma Hammami, the former editor of the banned newspaper "Alternatives" and spokesman of the Communist Party of Tunisian Workers (PCOT), was badly beaten by police on arriving at Tunis international airport on 29 September 2009 from Paris, where he had criticised the government in an interview for Al Jazeera.

"We no longer have the right to express our views in Tunisia," Hammami's wife, Radhia Nasraoui, a lawyer and human rights activist, told Reporters Without Borders. "When we dare to criticise the regime in the foreign media, we are punished by being physically attacked. This is now standard practice. They no longer need to throw people in prison."

In his interview for Al Jazeera on 25 September, Hammami also criticised the human rights situation and the way the government is organising the 25 October presidential election. His comments were retransmitted by the French 24-hour satellite TV news station France 24 the following evening.

Nasraoui told Reporters Without Borders she had to take a taxi when she went to meet her husband at Tunis airport because someone had punctured all four tires of her car during the night.

"On arriving, I was intrigued to see police checking everyone entering the airport and I wondered if they were on edge because they feared that activists would come to meet Hamma," she said. "When I saw more policemen than travellers in the arrivals hall, I phoned my husband to tell him. He told me he was going through customs and was being followed.

"I tried to call him several more times without success while the airport began to empty. Then I saw Hamma arrive, his mouth covered with blood, his glasses broken, bruises on his face, surrounded by about 20 policemen who were continuing to hit him. I shouted, but there were no more tourists in the airport. A policeman came up to me, snatched my mobile phone and threw it away with great force."

Nasraoui added that after returning home they learned that the Tunisian authorities had told France 24 that Hammami had arrived back in Tunis without any problem.
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