Magharebia (Washington DC)

24 January 2014

Tunisian Blogger Receives Asylum

Najjar in Tunis — Jailed Tunisian blogger Jabeur Mejri was granted asylum in Sweden.

The announcement was made Tuesday (January 21st) during a prison visit to Mejri by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

"While the delegation is satisfied with the growing national and international interest in this case, thanks to the struggles of Tunisian civil society, it renews its call to the presidential institution to release Jabeur Mejri in order to turn this page on an opinion trial," the FIDH said in a statement.

Bochra Belhaj Hamida, one of Mejri's lawyers, said that her client would "be released, but no date has been set yet".

Mejri is serving a seven-year prison sentence for "publishing works likely to disturb public order" and "offence to public decency".

"The sentence was very harsh and I say to the stakeholders, the prime minister and the president of the republic, release Jabeur," the attorney said. "Allowing Jabeur to later return to Tunisian soil will be another battle to establish freedom of conscience in Tunisia."

Mejri also expressed his disappointment to the delegation. He still awaits a presidential pardon, despite many rumoured promises in this regard.

But there has been no public confirmation that the president has indeed made such a commitment, according to Tunisia Live.

"Freedom of expression was and will remain threatened," said journalist Nebrasse El Hadhili. "We should not expect a special protection from any political power. The only guarantee to have freedom of expression is to use it, extensively and sometimes to the extreme."

"This is what Jabeur has done," he noted. "The real test of the seriousness of the democratic structure is such incidents and shocks, if we can consider the opinion of Jabeur as such."

He added, "We failed this time to absorb this shock with all its tremors, but we certainly have succeeded in expanding the margin of freedom in general by raising the issue!"

"I have not heard before now of the existence of a common and agreed upon sacred system. When we define precisely what is meant by sanctities then it would be worthwhile to criminalise harming them," he said.

"Jabeur's spirit was hammered due to harassment by several prisoners. It is natural for the prisoner in this case to look for the fastest and closest way to freedom. There is a big difference between prison and conditional freedom with exile," said journalist Asma Sahboun.

She noted, "What is not normal is the silence of civil society and the media with regard to stripping a Tunisian of his citizenship and deporting him under the pretext of being unable to protect him."

"There is no solution to the issue of Jabeur except by releasing him without restriction or conditions," she said.

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