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Tunisia: Unfair detention of six politicians

In Tunisia, six opposition figures—Jaouhar Ben Mbarek, Khayyam Turki, Issam Chebbi, Ghazi Chaouachi, Ridha Belhaj, and Abdelhamid Jelassi—have been wrongfully detained since February 2023 on baseless charges of threatening state security. Their appeal for release was denied in January 2024. Facing serious allegations under Tunisia’s anti-terrorism laws, we urge the immediate release of these individuals, arguing their detention violates their right to free speech.

Here’s what you can do:

Write to the Tunisian President urging him to:

  • Ensure that Jaouhar Ben Mbarek, Khayyam Turki, Issam Chebbi, Ghazi Chaouachi, Ridha Belhaj and Abdelhamid Jelassi, are immediately released from arbitrary detention.
  • Guarantee that the restrictions against Chaima Issa and Lazhar Akremi immediately lifted, and all the charges against them dropped, as the charges stem solely from the peaceful exercise of their human rights.
  • Pending their release, ensure that they have access to adequate healthcare, in compliance with medical ethics, including the principles of confidentiality, autonomy, and informed consent.
  • Cease your targeted arrests of critics for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Write to:

President of the Republic Kais Saied

Email: contact@carthage.tn

X (formerly Twitter): @TnPresidency

Salutation: Your Excellency:

And copy:

His Excellency Lassaad BOUTARA


Embassy of the Republic of Tunisia

515 O’Connor Street

Ottawa, ON K1S 3P8

Tel: (613) 237-0330, -0332 Fax: (613) 237-7939

Email: at.ottawa@diplomatie.gov.tn

Crackdown on Dissent

Since February 2023, Tunisian authorities have launched criminal probes against at least 50 individuals based on groundless claims of conspiracy. Among them, eight have been notably documented by Amnesty International, including six who remain detained. These include political figures like Khayyam Turki and Abdelhamid Jelassi, as well as lawyers Ghazi Chaouachi and Ridha Belhaj. Two others, Chaima Issa and Lazhar Akremi, were released after nearly five months.

Hunger Strikes and Health Concerns

On February 12, 2024, six of the detainees started a hunger strike to protest their unjust detention, with four continuing until February 27. This was their second hunger strike, the first occurring between September 26 and October 12, 2023, both ending due to health issues. The health of these detainees has notably declined, raising serious concerns.

The accused face severe charges under both the Tunisian Penal Code and the 2015 counterterrorism law, with potential penalties ranging from death to 20 years in prison. Efforts by lawyers for their release have been consistently denied. The situation is aggravated by the government’s broader crackdown on dissent, including the interrogation of lawyers and activists involved in their defense. International voices like the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have called for the respect of fair trial standards and the release of those detained unjustly.

Please take action as soon as possible until May 6, 2024! The UA will be duly updated should there be the need for further action.