By Ann Flower Seyse
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
NEW YORK, United States – On July 28 Human Rights Watch sent a letter to the Tunisian Minister of Justice Béchir Tekkari and Minister of Interior Rafeek Belhaj encouraging the end of Tunisian activist Abdallah Zouari’s exile.
Zouari was convicted on charges of plotting to overthrow the state in a mass trial of the leaders and members of the Islamist Nahdha movement. He was sentenced to eleven years jail time plus five years “complimentary sentence” of post-release “administrative control.” Such administrative detainments are common in Tunisia and are typically executed by local police while the person lives in their own neighborhood or city.
After Zouari’s release from prison in June 2002, he was exiled to the Zarzis area in the southern governorate of Medenine, about 500 km from where his family lives in the capital of Tunisia. Aside from a thirteen- month stint in prison, Zouari has served the additional five year complementary sentence in Zarzis. In June of 2007, when the complementary sentence should have ended, an extra twenty-six months of banishment were added to his sentence without explanation.
He served both the regular and the “complementary term” of his sentence and at the end of the complementary sentence the local authorities extended his confinement to the village for 26 months without reason on June 5 2007. This extension will run out in less than a week, Human Rights Watch has preemptively asked that Zouari be allowed to go free unless the Tunisian government can show real cause for continued detainment. When Zouari asked the chief of police who explained Zouari’s extended detainment to him, the officer merely said that the orders, “came from above.”
As the end of the 26 month extension is quickly approaching, Human Rights Watch has written a letter demanding that Tunisia show cause for further detainment. While Human Rights Watch did not agree with the legitimacy of the initial sentence, they are even more opposed to the arbitrary continuation of Zouari’s sentence.
For more information please see;
Human Rights Watch – Tunisia: End Activist’s Banishment – 28 July 2009
Media Line – Rights Group Calls for End to Tunisian’s Exile – 28 July 2009
Reuter’s – Alert Net: Tunisia: End Activist’s Banishment – 28 July 2009
Arabic News – Journalist Abdahlla Zouari’s Internal Exile Extended by 26 Months – 12 June 2007