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Journalist Fahem Boukaddous sentenced to four years in prison

(OLPEC/IFEX) - Tunis, 6 July 2010 - Today, the Gafsa Appeals Court sentenced journalist Fahem Boukaddous to four years in prison; he was charged with "participating in a criminal association with the intention of harming people and their property". This charge is related to video reports he made in 2008 for el Hiwar el Tounissi TV concerning demonstrations in the Gafsa mining region.

In flagrant violation of the Criminal Code, the court rejected the defence's request to postpone the hearing and delivered its verdict. The defence had earlier presented medical documents proving that Fahem Boukaddous is currently hospitalised at the Farhad Hached hospital in Sousse and his condition does not allow him to move.

During the hearing, the police had surrounded the courthouse and prohibited access to journalists and local observers.

The day before the hearing, on July 5, the police had put pressure on an intern of the hospital who had taken advantage of the absence of the physician and his department chief to sign the release of Fahem Boukaddous; but due to his protests and after the department chief's arrival, the patient was returned to intensive care. His doctor had confirmed that his present condition does not allow him to travel to Gafsa to attend his trial.

From his hospital bed, Fahem Boukaddous stated to OLPEC: "The police can come at any time to pull me out of my bed and put me into their inhuman jails; I can only suffer stoically from this sentence issued by a compliant judicial system, but my life is in danger and they can lead me to death!"

• considers this to be a politically-motivated lawsuit that punishes ordinary journalistic activity, protected by Tunisian and international laws.
• condemns this unfair sentence delivered after a lawsuit without any pleading and demands its cancellation.
• makes the Tunisian authorities assume responsibility for any developments that could affect the health and life of Fahem Boukaddous.
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