The arrest and internal deportation of a leading Tunisian journalist, who served an 11-year jail term for expressing his opinions, has led to condemnation by the International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest journalists' group, which describes the action against Abdallah Zouari as "a disgraceful and vindictive act of victimisation."
Zouari, a journalist with Al-Fajr newspaper, was jailed along with the paper's director Hamadi Jebali in the early 1990s. He had been released recently, but police seized him at his home in Tunis on Monday for deportation to a southern location on the orders of the Minister of Interior in July. However, there are reports that Zouari was not taken south and freed, but to the Harboub jail in Gabes, where he was imprisoned.
Zouari has appealed against the deportation decree of the Minister forcing him to separate from his family in the capital and to live in the southern town of Khariba-Hassi Jerbi. The police arrested Zouari before the courts had decided on the appeal.
"This is an appalling case of disregard for a journalists' civil and judicial rights," said Aidan White, General Secretary of the IFJ, "It is a disgraceful and vindictive act of victimisation by an intolerant regime that has virtually no respect for democracy and human rights."
The IFJ has received regular reports of abuse of the rights of journalists in Tunisia and says that the Zouari case indicates that the situation is getting worse. "We demand that he is released and that he is free to live with his family," said White.
The IFJ has called on the Association of Tunisian Journalists and human rights groups in the country to take up the case. Adballah Zouari is expected to appear in court tomorrow for disobeying the ministerial order to quit his home. "We hope that, even at this late stage, justice will be done and our colleague will be finally released to get on with the rest of his life," said Aidan White.