TUNISIA: Boukaddous and seven others released
21 October 2010
Update #1 to RAN 42/10
PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) welcomes the release on 19 January 2011 of Fahem Boukaddous, correspondent for Al-Badil news website and TV journalist, after more than seven months in prison. Boukaddous was sentenced to a four-year prison sentence in July 2010 for his reports on social protests. PEN also welcomes the release on 18 January 2011 of journalists Ammar Amroussia, Soufiane Chourabi and Hamadi Kaloutcha, bloggers Nibras Mahzeeli, Mue’z al-Bai and Mue’z Jama’I and rapper El Général (real name Hamada Ben Aoun). They were arrested after reporting on the recent protests in Tunisia which led to the fall of President Ben Ali.
Boukaddous was released as a part of a general amnesty for political prisoners on 19 January 2010. Following his release, he told PEN International “I would like to thank PEN International for working tirelessly for my release. Your campaigning gave me hope while I was in detention. I was the last journalist to be released in Tunisia and now we have hope.” He also told International Freedom of Expression Exchange Tunisia Monitoring Group (IFEX-TMG): "My feelings of joy are indescribable. Despite repression and life in prison and underground over the past years, I never stopped believing that the Tunisian people would finally turn a new page of democratic rule." (See Background below for details of his case).
Amroussia, Chourabi, Kaloutcha, Mahzeeli, al-Bai, Jama’I and Ben Aoun were released on 18 January 2011 by the interim government as part of the general amnesty. They had not been charged or tried. For more background details, see previous alert: http://www.internationalpen.org.uk/go/news/tunisia-some-journalists-and-bloggers-released-others-still-in-detention-fear-for-their-safety
Boukaddous was arrested on 15 July 2010 after being discharged from hospital, where he had been receiving treatment for respiratory problems, and taken to Gafsa prison, five hundred kilometres southwest of Tunis. The arrest followed a 6 July verdict by an appeals court confirming the four-year prison sentence handed down to Boukaddous earlier that year on charges stemming from his coverage of demonstrations in Gafsa in 2008. It was believed that the charges of "belonging to a criminal association" and "harming public order" were politically motivated, with the aim of silencing criticism of the Tunisian authorities. While in detention, Boukaddous suffered from severe respiratory problems and received little medical attention.
Reports on Boukaddous’ release:
- IFEX-TMG (19 January 2011): http://www.ifex.org/tunisia/2011/01/19/struggle/
- Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ (19 January 2011): http://cpj.org/blog/2011/01/freed-fahem-boukadous-released-in-tunisia.php
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