Ben Brik, a contributor to several European media outlets and one of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s top critics, was sentenced November 26 to six months in prison on trumped-up charges of assault, property damage, defamation, and violating public morality, according to CPJ interviews and news reports.
Ben Brik was not brought to the Tunis court when the ruling was issued, according to his wife, Azza Zarrad. His lawyers and family were prevented from visiting him for several days before the court hearing, she said. His lawyers said they would appeal.
Ben Brik was arrested just days after Ben Ali threatened to prosecute Tunisians who “cast doubt” on the results of the October general election. Ben Ali won a fifth term and the ruling Democratic Constitutional Rally won an overwhelming legislative majority in the balloting, which was marred by widespread media suppression.
In 2000, Ben Brik was charged with spreading false information and defaming public institutions in articles published in European media outlets. The charges were dropped after he went on a widely publicized hunger strike to protest judicial and police harassment.