TUNISIA: blogger’s sentence upheld; fears for safety

GhRAPID ACTION NETWORK Appeal | May 7, 2013

Tunisian blogger Jabeur Mejri

Tunisian blogger Jabeur Mejri

​PEN Canada’s Writers in Prison Committee  (WiPC) has recently learned that a seven-and-a-half year prison sentence passed on the Tunisian blogger Jabeur Mejri, for expressing allegedly blasphemous views online, was confirmed by the Court of Cassation on April  25, 2013. Mejri has been in prison since his arrest on March  5, 2012. PEN considers Jabeur Mejri to be targeted solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Tunisia is a signatory. PEN calls for Mejri’s immediate and unconditional release and urgently seeks guarantees of his safety in detention.

According to PEN’s information, blogger Jabeur Mejri was arrested on March  5, 2012 for using social networks to publicise a satirical book entitled The Illusion of Islam. On March 9, 2012, a primary court in Mahdia charged Mejri with “disturbing the public order and violating social morals” under article 121 (3) and 226 of Penal Code, and with “publishing articles which violate good morals” under article 86 of Communication Law. These laws were established by the Ben Ali regime.

On March 15, 2012, a primary court in Mahdia (eastern Tunisia) sentenced Mejri to seven and half years in prison. He was also fined 1200 Tunisian Dinars ($790). The author of the book, writer Ghazi Beji, was also charged in the case but fled Tunisia and was sentenced to seven and half years in prison in absentia. Mejir, however, has been in prison since his arrest on March 5, 2012. Mejri has lost all appeals and, on April 25, 2013, the Court of Cassation upheld his sentence.

According to Mejri’s lawyer, he was tortured during his interrogation and was also attacked on several occasions inside the prison by other prisoners after news spread that he had “insulted Islam”. Mejri suffers from behavioural problems, and requests by his defence team for an examination of his mental state were refused by the court.

On April 23, 2013, a committee supporting Jabeur Mejri and Ghazi Beji published a letter from Mejri, written in his prison cell in Mahdia, in which he claims he has been subject to torture. Mejri wrote:

“There’s no freedom of expression here in Tunisia, it is dead…I am denied medicine to cure my illness and other rights. Seven years and six months is a long period to spend in a small, dark and gloomy place. Officers take pleasure in torturing me.”

 More information on Jabeur Mejri can be found here

Please send appeals

  • Condemning the harsh prison sentence handed down to blogger Jabeur Mejri solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to free expression;
  • Calling for his immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Tunisia is a signatory;
  • Expressing concerns for his safety, and seeking assurances that he is not being tortured or ill-treated in detention which violates Article 5 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights);
  • Urging the Tunisian authorities to allow him access to immediate medical attention.

APPEALS TO:     http://pencanada.ca/campaigns/rapid-action-network-appeal-may-7-2013/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rapid-action-network-appeal-may-7-2013        

Tunisia: Jailed Netizen Denied Eid Pardon

10 August 2013

By Afef Abrougui

Tunisian Twitter users expressed their disappointment when they learned that jailed netizen Jabeur Mejri, was not going to benefit from a recent presidential pardon issued on the occasion of Eid. Last year, Mejri was sentenced to seven and half years in prison over the publication of Prophet Muhammad cartoons on Facebook. His friend Ghazi Beji, who published a satirical book called the ‘Illusion of Islam’ on the document-sharing website Scribd also received the same severe sentence in absentia. Beji had fled Tunisia to escape prosecution and obtained political asylum in France. They were found guilty of ‘publishing material liable to cause harm to public order or good morals’, ‘insulting others through public communication networks’ and ‘assaulting public morals’.

Last April, Mejri’s verdict was confirmed by the Cassation Court (the highest court of appeal in Tunisia). His defense team decided to seek a presidential pardon. However, Mejri was not included in the list of the pardoned prisoners issued on August 8.

Photo via Facebook Page ‘Pour la grâce présidentielle de Jabeur et Ghazi’

Photo via Facebook Page ‘Pour la grâce présidentielle de Jabeur et Ghazi’

The committee in support of Mejri and Beji released a statement [fr]:

La présidence a annoncé une grâce présidentielle pour une liste de 343 prisonniers ainsi qu’une grâce spéciale de 20 autres prisonniers mais le nom de Jabeur Mejri ne figure pas sur aucune de ces listes.

Nous avons espéré que le président se rappellerait que lui même, un jour a été à la place de Jabeur Mejri et refuserait de voir des prisonniers d’opinion, durant son mandat mais … malgré les promesses qui ont été faites à demi mots à sa famille, le résultat est là : Jabeur reste en prison !

Jabeur Mejri ne passera pas l’Aid avec les siens ! Même si Jabeur n’est ni un terroriste, ni un violeur, ni un criminel ! Jabeur est un jeune qui a cru en une Tunisie nouvelle et a cru avoir le droit de s’exprimer librement !

Jabeur Mejri n’aurait jamais du être en prison! (…) Après un jugement inéquitable, il est accusé pour trouble à l’ordre public pour un message sur Facebook sur une page où il avait 16 fans !

 The president’s office issued a presidential pardon of 343 prisoners and a special pardon of 20 other prisoners. But, the name of Jabeur Mejri is not listed.

We had hoped that the President would remember that he some time ago was a prisoner of conscience like Jabeur Mejri. We had hoped that he [interim President Moncef Marzouki], would refuse to see prisoners of opinion during his mandate. But despite the promises made to his family, Mejri remains in prison.

Jabeur Mejri will not celebrate Eid with his family even though he is not a terrorist, a rapist or a criminal. Jabeur is a young man who had believed in a new Tunisia and thought he had the right to express himself freely.

Jabeur Mejri should never have been in prison! (…) Following an unfair trial, he was convicted of causing harm to public order over a message he published on his Facebook page and where he only had 16 fans!

‘Express yourself, Freedom’ via Amnesty Tunisia Facebook page

‘Express yourself,
Freedom’ via Amnesty Tunisia Facebook page

On Twitter: netizens expressed their dismay.

Plus de 300 detenus liberés aujourd hui et toujours derriere les barreaux pour ses opinions. N’oublions pas

More than 300 prisoners were freed today but Jabeur remains behind bars for his ideas. Let’s not forget this.

Sayeb @Moncef_Marzouki Jabeur n’est pas un danger public yè Marzouki

.@Moncef_Marzouki Free Jabeur, he is not a danger to the public.

Pendant que vous fetez el aid un jeune croupit dans une prison tunisienne parce qu’il a osé mettre en doute vos croyances

As you celebrate Eid, a young man rots in prison for daring to call into question your beliefs.

343 criminels libérés mais jaber est toujours en prison pour une caricature!

343 criminals freed but Jabeur remains in prison over a caricature!

@presidenceTN son crime ? Exprimer une idée ! Le prix 7.5 ans et demi de prison ! ce n est pas un terroriste lui

.@presidenceTN What’s his crime? Expressing an idea! The reward is seven and half years in prison. Jabeur is not a terrorist!