ARTICLE 19 strongly condemns the recent judgment against former Tunisian president Mohamed Moncef Marzouki and civil society activist Meryam Bribri ordering them to face prison sentences. ARTICLE 19 also expresses its concern about the escalation of trials linked to people expressing opinions since 25 July, and the imprisonment of several people in connection with their expression of opinions through both traditional and social media, as well as during demonstrations.
On 22 December 2021, the Court of First Instance in Tunis issued a judgment in absentia against former President Mohamed Moncef Marzouki, ordering a prison sentence of four years on charges of conspiring against state security.
This judgment comes after the President of the Republic, Kais Saied, demanded during a Council of Ministers session that convened on 14 October 2021 the prosecution of Marzouki following his statements to a French media channel on 12 October 2021, in which he affirmed that he was “proud of his efforts with French officials to urge them to move a major international meeting of French-speaking countries from Tunisia, given that its organisation in a country witnessing a coup will be considered as support of dictatorship and tyranny.”
The Court of First Instance in Tunis considered these statements to be an attack on the security of the state from abroad and to have caused diplomatic harm.
This judgment comes in the context of continuous pressure exerted by the President of the Republic on the judiciary since 25 July, when he demanded from judges in several speeches to take specific judicial decisions regarding a number of cases, which reached the point where high-ranking judges were invited to the presidential palace to influence the judiciary. On 13 December 2021, the judiciary, through official channels, announced its refusal to jeopardise the independence of judges.
Further doubts have arisen regarding the political nature of the recent trial, given the swift decision confirming the conviction, while several ongoing cases remain unresolved, including cases of physical violence against journalists, political opponents, and human rights defenders.
Furthermore, on 21 December 2021, the Court of First Instance of Sfax issued a judgment of four months’ imprisonment and a fine of 500 dinars (approximately US$180) for insulting a public official for human rights activist Meryam Bribri in connections with her comment about a video published on Facebook showing police officers assaulting a young man.
These judicial judgments are not isolated cases, but actually come in the context of a policy that systematically infringes on all forms of expression opposing the existing political authority and the security forces. ARTICLE 19 noted the issuance of several rulings by the military and judicial courts that imprisoned bloggers, politicians, and 1media professionals for their exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and information.
ARTICLE 19 reminds the existing authorities of the need to respect the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 31 of the Constitution and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It also affirms that the expression of opinions in the political sphere enjoys the utmost protection, and the courts must play their role in guaranteeing rights and freedoms in accordance with the provisions of Article 102 of the Constitution, which states that: “the judiciary is an independent authority that guarantees the administration of justice, the supremacy of the constitution, the rule of law, and the protection of rights and freedoms.”
Finally, we call for all charges to be dropped against former President Mohamed Moncef Marzouki and activist Meryam Bribri and for the authorities to stop tracking individuals for expressing their opinions.
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- 1media professionals