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Tunisia: protest held in solidarity with ‘political’ detainees

March 28, 2023 at 11:36 am

Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, political committee chief of Tunisia’s Amal Party and leader of the opposition National Salvation Front part in a demonstration demanding the release of prominent figures opposed to the president who were arrested in recent weeks. [Photo by Hasan Mrad/DeFodi Images via Getty Images]

The National Salvation Front in Tunisia started a sit-in protest yesterday in solidarity with the “political” detainees held in connection with the so-called “conspiracy against state security” case, Arabi21 has reported.

The leader of the Front, Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, said that the protest would not end until the detainees are recognised as political prisoners, a right which is guaranteed to them by international law and conventions. The senior official also indicated that the sit-in will not end until the spokesperson for the prosecution comes forward and tells the public the truth about the prisoners’ file, which he described as empty and fabricated.

Chebbi told journalists that the activists who have been detained are known for their independence, and some are party leaders who find themselves in cells with their assets frozen. “I visited my brother, the Secretary-General of the Republican Party, Essam Chebbi, and met him through a separation wall, which is inappropriate,” he explained by way of example. He then called on the Tunisian authorities to treat the detainees as political prisoners rather than common criminals.

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In response to a question about those taking part in the protest, Chebbi clarified that ten members of the Front will be involved, along with a number of the prisoners’ family members. “The invitation is open to all political and human rights forces and civil society organisations to participate and support these prisoners of conscience.”

Regarding the possibility of escalating the protest, Chebbi emphasised that there are many options, including hunger strikes and street demonstrations.

Several prominent political figures have been arrested and detained in the past month in the “conspiracy against state security” case. Anyone found guilty of the charges could face the death penalty.

The detainees’ defence team accuses President Kais Saied of personally managing the case and insists that it is a political file aimed at targeting opponents who oppose the “coup” authority.

Last week, the judiciary rejected requests for the detainees to be released submitted by the defence lawyers. An appeal against the decision is expected to be considered on Thursday, coinciding with a protest by the detainees’ families outside the court.

Front member Mohamed El-Qoumani told Arabi21 that the movement will enter a new phase of dialogue and exploration through the open sit-in, in which political figures have been chosen to participate. “The most basic duty towards those in prison is loyalty to them and their ideas for which they have come together,” he insisted. “We will spare no effort to secure their release.”

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