More repression of journalists in Tunisia

Tunisian Internet editor to stand trial:

New York, August 1, 2007— The managing editor of a Tunisian online magazine is due to appear in court in Tunis on August 2 on charges of defamation that could lead to his imprisonment for up to three-and-a-half years, according to one of his lawyers.

The charges against Tunisian rights activist Omar Mestiri stem from an article in French posted on the Web site Kalima on September 5, 2006, in which he criticized the Tunisian Bar Association for reversing a decision to disbar a lawyer close to the government who was convicted on several counts of perjury and fraud. Access to Kalima is blocked in the country.

Ayachi Hammami, one of Mestiri’s lawyers, told CPJ that the trial has, for unclear reasons, been scheduled for a time when the ordinary judicial year is in recess, which might afford it less scrutiny than it could receive otherwise. “There is no reason not to examine this case during the ordinary judicial year due to begin in mid-September,” he said.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.