Tunisia: Open Letter to the Tunisian authorities by Paul Murphy MEP

Azyz and Sabri must be immediately released without charge

As I had the opportunity to visit Tunisia on a delegation from the European Parliament in May 2011, and once again in the context of the World Social Forum in March 2013, I have been following the situation in Tunisia very closely since. I have also kept close contacts with many trade unionists, human rights campaigners, youth activists etc.

Specifically, I want to express my indignation at the recent arrest and detention of the young blogger and well-known activist Azyz Amami as well as of the photographer Sabri Ben Mlouka. Both were arrested on Monday night in La Goulette, on what evidently appears to many as truncated charges of cannabis use and possession. Under this charge, they both risk one to five years in prison.

The notorious "Law 52", considered by many as a tool of repression used to silence dissenting voices, is increasingly back in the favoured arsenal of the police of what is now largely presented as a “democratic” State. Furthermore, Khaled Amami, Azyz’s father, who visited Azyz during his detention, declared that his son showed signs of bruising on the face and body -evidence that he has been mistreated by the police.

Azyz was among the first vocal opponents of the repression of Ben Ali’s regime during the revolutionary developments that shook Tunisia a bit more than three years ago. Since then, he has not ceased to defend democratic rights, speaking out for the poor and the oppressed, denouncing the abusive practices of the security forces, defending the truth for the families of the martyrs of the revolution, and been involved in many other causes.

In the light of all this, there is no doubt that this arrest is politically motivated, aimed at picking up a symbol of the revolutionary cause, and at intimidating all those like Azyz who speak too vocally against the system of political repression and police violence. In sharp contrast to the hopes and aspirations of the mass of the people who overthrew Ben Ali’s dictatorship, and despite the official façade of your new administration, such a system is indeed still ongoing in Tunisia. And, as you are aware, this is far from being the only example of the repression used by the Tunisian authorities in the recent period against political and trade union activists.

Meanwhile, former senior officials of the Ben Ali regime, jailed for the deadly repression of anti-government protests , have been recently freed, provoking outrage internationally, and angry protests in Tunisia. As demanded by a growing number of people protesting in Tunisia, France and elsewhere, and including through a massive campaign on social networks, this injustice must stop. The law 52 must be abandoned, Azyz and Sabri must be immediately released without charge, and the responsible for this arbitrary arrest must be made accountable for their actions.

Paul Murphy

Member of the European Parliament.

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