Detained TV producer Sami Fehri decided yesterday to drink water for four days as he continues his hunger strike, confirmed his attorney Sonia Dahmani. On Tuesday, Fehri announced that he would undertake a dry hunger strike in which he would not consume water or food.
Issam Chebbi and Iyed Dahmani, both constituent assembly members affiliated with the opposition Al Joumhouri party, visited Fehri yesterday. According to Fehri’s attorney, it was Chebbi, who convinced her client to drink water.
The decision to call off the ‘dry’ aspect of the hunger strike comes a day after Fehri protested his detention in an open letter to Minister of Justice Noureddine Bhiri on Tuesday.
In it, he wrote that Bhiri abused his power and broke the law by keeping him detained in prison after the Court of Appeals overruled the original charges against him on November 28.
“Congratulations Mr. Minister. You are the first minister to keep a citizen in prison with no legal basis,” wrote Fehri.
A series of reactions on social media, such as Twitter, echoed this claim by Fehri.
@ZeinebTurki: It matters little whether one likes or not #SamiFehri, this is a Tunisian citizen illegally held in prison and for that he has all my support
@AhlemHC: Tunisian government manages to invent yet a new dictatorial concept: citizen kidnapping. #SamiFehri released by justice but still in prison
“It is the first time in my professional career as a lawyer that I witness such a violation of procedure,” claimed Bochra Belhaj Hmida, a lawyer and human rights activist.
The Ministry of Justice has maintained that the Court of Appeals’ overruling of the original decision by the indictment chamber, which found him guilty, does not legally entail that Fehri be released.
Adel Riahi, press officer at the Ministry of Justice, told Tunisia Live that the ministry is waiting for a report from the indictment chamber, which is in charge of Fehri’s case, to be able to present the media with judicial explanations for Fehri’s detention.
The detained TV producer also stated his belief in the letter that Bhiri wants to keep him out of the media sphere. Fehri has previously claimed that the case against him was a result of a satirical puppet show, Ellogique Essiyassi, which featured puppets resembling Tunisian political figures. The show “upset some government officials,” he said this August.
“Fehri’s case has become a political issue,” stated Belhaj Hmida.
The original announcement by Fehri on Tuesday to begin a ‘dry’ hunger strike in which he would refuse food and water worried his lawyers.
Abdelaziz Essid, one of Fehri’s attorney, told Tunisian radio Shems FM that his client is in a very bad psychological state.
Director of TV channel El Hiwar Tounsi, Tahar Ben Hassine, announced yesterday the creation of The National Committee for the Defense of Sami Fehri, reported TAP. The Committee today is holding a sit-in at the headquarters of the Ministry of Justice in Tunis to protest the indictment chamber’s handling of Fehri’s case.
Fehri is the owner of Ettounsiya Television and faced corruption charges this year for his association with Belhassen Trabelsi, the brother-in-law of former president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. He is accused of financial corruption related to advertising contracts signed Cactus Productions company, which Fehri co-owned with Trabelsi, as well as misappropriation of state television resources.
Bernard Yaros contributed reporting