Ben Ali pardons human rights activist
Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali pardoned human rights defender and lawyer Mohammed Abbou and several other opposition activists on Tuesday (July 24th), the 50th anniversary of the republic's establishment. International human rights organisation Human Rights First hailed the move as "an important success for the human rights community in Tunisia and the result of their sustained efforts to obtain the release of their wrongly jailed colleague."
The Arab Human Rights Organisation said that Abbou's three and a half year sentence was "due to an article he wrote on the conditions of political prisoners in Tunisian prisons." Tunisian authorities deny that the trial was politically motivated and say Abbou was convicted of harassing a female colleague, spreading false information and inciting citizens to break the law.
"The regime should know that human rights activists in Tunisia are not calling for violence, rather they call for reform," Abbou said in an interview with al-Jazeera. "The Tunisian authorities offered time and again to release me from prison on condition of signing a letter of apology. But I refused to do so," he said, adding that his release was the result of "Tunisians capable of saying no to a regime in violation of basic human rights".
Mohamed Abbou is a former member of the administrative board of the Young Lawyers Association, a member of the executive bureau of the Tunisian Centre for the Independence of the Judiciary, and a member of the National Committee for Liberties in Tunisia, as well as two other organisations which are not recognised by the Tunisian authorities.
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