Imprisoned journalist’s health said to deteriorate

New York, September 30, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists is very concerned about the health of imprisoned Tunisian journalist Hamadi Jebali, who is in the 16th day of a hunger strike protesting 14 years of unjust imprisonment.

The journalist did not feel well enough to leave his cell when his wife, Wahida Jebali, went to the Mahdia prison for her weekly visit on Tuesday, she told CPJ. A fellow inmate told her that the journalist was weak and his condition was deteriorating, she said.

“My husband can no longer bear the suffering and I don’t know what to do. I am on my own and can only ask for help to save the life of my husband and his family,” she said. She has sent several appeals to President Ben Ali and Minister of Justice and Human Rights Bechir Tekari, but they have gone unanswered.

Jebali, former editor of Al-Fajr, the now-defunct weekly newspaper of the banned Islamic Al-Nahda party, was first imprisoned in 1991 for an article calling for the abolition of military tribunals in Tunisia. Tried the following year by a military court, along with 279 others accused of belonging to Al-Nahda, he was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

International human rights groups monitoring the mass trial concluded that the proceedings fell far below international standards of justice. The state presented no evidence against Jebali, implicitly basing the charge on his association with Al-Fajr.

Jebali’s continued imprisonment comes as the Tunisian government is preparing to host the World Summit for the Information Society, a United Nation-sponsored gathering seeking to establish international regulations for the Internet. Thousands of government, business, media, and human rights leaders are due to attend the November summit.