Sunday, April 22, 2018

Tunisia's abusive use of military courts

Al-Monitor has this column by Hanen Jebli under the headline "Is freedom of expression at stake in Tunisia?" It's an understatement. Here's an excerpt:
One of those prosecuted as a result of Facebook posts is opposition parliament member and blogger Yassine Ayari, who appeared April 10 before the criminal court of the Tunisian military judicial system on felony charges of treason and conspiring against state security, according Ayari defense team member Malek bin Omar.

Ayari said in a Facebook post April 10, “The trial was illegal,” adding that he appeared before the court but remained silent the entire time because of the case's illegitimacy and because of the state's futility. The case was adjourned until May 8, on the grounds that the military court’s report was not yet ready.

Omar said that Ayari, out of respect for the judiciary, did not insist on benefiting from parliamentary immunity in the case. The legislator had said in a March 30 blog post that the punishment for the charges could include the death penalty.

On March 27, in a separate case, the military judiciary sentenced Ayari to 16 days in jail for criticizing the military and offending the president of the republic, Omar said. The military prosecution, however, appealed the sentence in the misdemeanor case, saying it was too lenient.
The column reports on an earlier prosecution as well:
Ayari was previously tried and imprisoned several years ago for publishing critical comments online. A military court sentenced him in November 2014 in absentia to three years on charges of “insulting the dignity of the army” and criticizing Justice Minister Ghazi al-Gribi as well as specific appointments made in the military command. In January 2015, a military court reduced the sentence to one year in prison. He was released after six months in jail.
These are plainly abusive uses of military courts, and violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

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