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5 Tunisian political detainees begin hunger strike: rights group says

October 3, 2023 at 3:11 pm

People gather to demonstrate in support of politicians arrested on charges of “conspiracy against the security of the state” at Bourguiba Street at Tunis, Tunisia on September 30, 2023 [Yassine Gaidi – Anadolu Agency]

Five senior Tunisian politicians announced a hunger strike to protest their imprisonment and a crackdown by authorities, a prisoners’ group said yesterday.

They joined Ennahda Party leader Rached Ghannouchi, who announced a hunger strike on Friday in solidarity with  Jaouhar Ben Mbarek, who began a hunger strike on 26 September.

The Defence Authority for Political Detainees in Tunisia identified the latest hunger strikers as Issam Chebbi, secretary-general of the Tunisian Republican Party. Ghazi Chaouachi, Abdel Hamid Jlassi, Khayam Turki and Ridha Belhaj.

It added that all of them have been held in prison without trial since February.

Tunisian authorities are yet to comment on the latest announcement of a hunger strike. All the men have been accused of “conspiracy against the state security.”

The Republican Party confirmed that Chebbi and other political prisoners had embarked on a hunger strike and held the authorities fully responsible for their safety.

A Tunisian court sentenced Ghannouchi, one of the main opponents of President Kais Saied, to one year in prison on 15 May on terrorism-related charges after he was arrested on April 17 on accusations of plotting against state security.

The sentence came amid a campaign against critics of Saied, accusing them of being part of a conspiracy against the state.

In February, Amnesty International described Saied’s crackdown against his political opponents as “a politically motivated witch hunt.”

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