Profession: Internet writer, lawyer and human rights activist.
Date of arrest: 1 March 2005
Sentence: Sentenced during the night of 28-29 April 2005 to two years in prison for an incident at a 2002 conference in which the lawyer allegedly attacked a colleague, though reportedly no evidence was presented at the trial aside from an unsigned medical certificate. Tunisian lawyer and human rights activist Radhia Nasrawi has claimed that “a number of witnesses would have been able to testify that no assault was committed during this conference in 2002”. Abbou was also sentenced to 18 months for “having published information that would disturb public order” and for “insulting the judiciary” in an article posted on the Tunisnews website in August 2004 (www.tunisnews.net) which compared torture committed against political prisoners in Tunisia to abuses carried out by US soldiers in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.
It is thought that Abbou’s arrest on 1 March 2005 and the subsequent prison sentences handed down to him (which were upheld on appeal on 10 June 2005) are in fact linked to a 28 February 2005 article posted on the Tunisnews website in which he ironically compared Tunisian President Ben Ali to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Mohammed Abbou went on a hunger strike for several days in July 2005 to, in his words, “draw attention to what is happening in my country as regards the repression against all those who voice dissent.”
Recent developments: Mohammed Abbou continues to be subjected to harassment by his co-detainees who have uttered threats against him in the presence of guards who do not react, according to his wife. For the last two months, Mr. Abbou has slept on a box spring, without a mattress, in a sign of protest against his conditions and in demand for a change in his prison cell. The prison administration has denied his right to medical treatment and his right to see a judge to file his grievances.
Mohammed Abbou’s family is suffering continuous harassment, too.
According to IFEX, on 6 May 2006, an individual, recognised by Mohammed Abbou’s wife Samia Abbou, to be an agent of the political police, gained access to the family’s balcony between midnight and 1 a.m. (local time). It was the third time that week that this “night visitor” had spread panic in the Abbou family.
It is also reported that police officers often harass Mrs Abbou and the friends who accompany her for weekly visits with her husband at Kef prison. When she was accompanied by members of a Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG) – IFEX mission, she was escorted under normal conditions. However, the following week the harassment resumed in full force, often taking place at roadblocks or outside the prison when she attempted to visit her husband
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/honorarymembers/tunisia/mohammedabbou/