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Tunisia: journalist released after referral to ‘anti-terrorist judiciary’

September 12, 2022 at 3:33 pm

People including journalists gather to stage a protest against the detention of journalist Ghassen Ben Khelifa on the charge of “suspicion of terrorism” in Tunis, Tunisia on September 09, 2022. [Yassine Gaidi – Anadolu Agency]

The National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists announced on Sunday that one of its members, Ghassan Ben Khalifa, has been released after five days in detention, pending trial as part of the government’s efforts to “fight terrorism”, Anadolu has reported.

Ben Khalifa was released by permission of the Prosecutor’s Office of the Judicial Counter-Terrorism Unit.”

His wife told Anadolu that plainclothes security agents without judicial authorisation searched the family home. “They then took my husband to the headquarters of the anti-crime squad in the centre of Tunis along with his phone, his personal computer and his brother’s computer from his parents’ house,” explained Marwa Al-Sharif. “The prosecution decided to refer Ghassan to the judicial centre for terrorism, without revealing his whereabouts and without allowing his lawyer to see him for more than two days. His safety is the responsibility of the authorities.”

Al-Sharif pointed out that it was decided to keep her husband for five days pending investigations in a terrorist case related to a Facebook page that publishes content against President Kais Saied. “My husband is accused of supervising this page, which is not true,” she insisted.

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On Friday, dozens of journalists in Tunis, took part in a protest organised by the journalists’ union against Ben Khalifa’s arrest, as well as the referral of his case to the “anti-terrorist” judiciary. The protestors called for freedom of expression and press freedom. “The Fourth Estate,” they insisted, “is not submissive.”

The Tunisian authorities did not comment immediately on the case of the arrested journalist.

Tunisia has been undergoing a serious political crisis since 25 July last year, when Saied imposed his exceptional measures on the country. These included the dismissal of the government, the dissolution of the Judicial Council and the parliament, and the issue of laws by presidential decree.

Opposition groups describe these measures as a “coup against the 2014 constitution and the consolidation of absolute individual power.” Saied’s supporters, however, see them as a “correction of the course of the 2011 revolution” that overthrew the then President, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.