20 December 2012 11:27 am | | 5

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Sami Fehri, founder of Ettounsiya Television

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

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Comments (5)

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  1. hochiminh says:

    democracy is a relative term….the us isn’t a democracy either ( in absolute terms).
    Tunisia is not a full fledged democracy, but it is far from what it was 2 years ago.

  2. Robin Hood says:

    You can not name a detainee a crook unless presented charges are proven by court, in a democratic state / country allegations are never true unless determined by court to be true. These are the basics of democracy that one has to admits.

    • 3okkez says:

      I am not a journalist nor a politician, I am not giving a formal speech either…So I do not have to be reserved nor use legal terminology. This guy IS a crook, because his case is simple and clear to all Tunisians.

      You argument is like saying, Ben Ali is innocent until proven guilty…sure that is a true legal statement, but the 12 million Tunisians and the rest of the world knows the guy is a thief, criminal and a crook…no need to be delicate about it.

      As far as other legal cases where the litigation is more subtle and evidence is not so publicly available, then everybody must have some reservation as far as determining the culpability of the person before trial.

    • Mark says:

      I agree with you however Tunisia is not a democracy even if it pretends to be. the human rights are not respected by the government and many of the people are angry at many things that may or not be true….sadly

  3. 3okkez says:

    Everybody knows this guy is a crook and deserves to spend few years in jail, but the way our judicial system is working (as well as the whole country) is a shame.
    The ministry of justice can’t have a state’s attorney that would handle this law-suit with professional care. Again, everybody knows this guy needs to sleep in jail for some time, yet they cannot handle a proper investigation and follow due process.

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