A detained Salafist, Marwen Ouerhani, resumed his hunger strike today, said his sister, Boudour Ouerhani, to Tunisian radio Mosaique FM. She claimed in the interview that despite her brother’s deteriorating health he will be sent back to jail from the hospital.
Adel Riahi, press attaché of the Ministry of Justice, denied that Ouerhani would leave the hospital.
“No prisoner is returned to jail from the hospital unless they have recovered,” Riahi said to Tunisia Live.
Neither the judge nor prison officials have the authority to release a prisoner from the hospital, but only the doctor, who is treating the inmate, Riahi explained.
Ouerhani has been awaiting trial under administrative detention in Mornaguia prison for seven months. He was arrested in June during a series of the protests that occurred across the country following a controversial art exhibition at the Abdellia Palace in the Tunis suburb of La Marsa.
He originally refused to acquiesce to prison officials’ demands and stop his hunger strike. Four days ago, Ouerhani suspended the hunger strike after the general prosecutor promised to accelerate his case. Nevertheless, he resumed his hunger strike today when no subsequent progress was made.
His sister asked authorities to release Ouerhani, stating that he is the family’s only bread-winner.
Tunisia’s judicial system has recently come under scrutiny with the high-profile cases of TV producer Sami Fehri, leftist activist Fathi Tlili, and other Salafists like Ouerhani.
Monther Cherni, secretary general of the Fight Against Torture association, noted a growing number of hunger strikes to Tunisia Live. “People do not go on hunger strike unless they encounter extreme difficulties that push them to extreme, desperate ways of expressing their anger,” he pointed out.
According to Tunisian law, administrative detentions can last up to 14 months.
“Protesters rightfully go on hunger strikes to object an administrative detention gone long,” Cherni said.
To curtail increasing instances of hunger strikes, Cherni’s association has lobbied to decrease the maximum detention period as well as improve jail conditions.