Two men from Sidi Bouzid have undergone a hunger strike after being detained over a Facebook post accusing the previous governor of corruption.
The Facebook post, sent out by Sidi Bouzid’s General Secretary of the Union of Unemployed Graduates Jamel Saghrouni, claims that the former Sidi Bouzid governor and his family have illegally seized a number of public properties, including “a national park and a fish market.”
Saghrouni and Khaled Bekari, another activist in the union who shared the post, were arrested last Tuesday, October 18, on charges of “smearing others through social media.”
In a phone conversation with Tunisia Live, a police representative in Sidi Bouzid confirmed that the two men had been arrested, but declined to provide any further details. A circuit court in Sidi Bouzid said that the men will appear before a judge next Tuesday.
According to Moez Salhi, a lawyer representing the two, a committee of fifteen lawyers has been formed to defend the accused men. Salhi added that a number of organizations are planning protest in solidarity with Saghrouni and Bekari.
“Several human rights organizations and political parties have mobilized to express their outrage over the UDC members’ arrests,” Salhi commented.
A leftist party issued an official statement pledging its support to the detained men, and calling for the government to open an investigation into Saghrouni’s claims.
There have also been protest movements in Sousse, Sfax, and Gafsa over the activists’ arrests, and according to Salem Ayari, the General Secretary of the Union of Unemployed Graduates (UDC), further activities are being organized to advocate on their behalf, including a march to the court in November.
Ayari also stressed the urgency of passing legislation to protect government whistleblowers and activists, a central demand from reformists following the revolution.