Amnesty International Calls for 'Urgent Action' Against the Jailing of Ines Ben Othman - Tunisia Live
Amnesty International Calls for ‘Urgent Action’ Against the Jailing of Ines Ben Othman
Jeremy Fryd (http://www.tunisia-live.net/?author=635)on January 7, 2015
Amnesty International (AI) released a statement (http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE30/001/2015/en/0aa5edcb-cf6c480e-b64a-8dd175a4d93a/mde300012015en.pdf) on Tuesday, in support of lm director Ines Ben Othman, who has been arrested
following her criticism of a police o cer.
The in uential human rights organization, which believes that “any prison sentence for insulting an o cial would be a
disproportionate restriction on freedom of expression,” points out that the right to expression is enshrined in Article 31 of Tunisia’s
new constitution and so is contradicted by certain parts of Tunisia’s criminal law.
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On December 19, Ben Othman visited a police station in Ariana (just outside Tunis proper) to le a complaint against its deputy
head, who she claims to have been verbally attacking her through posts on Facebook. In response to an argument that broke out at
the station, Ben Othman was arrested that day for “verbally insulting a public o cial while carrying out their duties.” According to
the police department, she violated Article 125 of the Penal Code, an o ense punished with a ne and one year prison sentence.
Ben Othman claims that her persecution is politically motivated. As Secretary General of the Union for Cinema and Audiovisual
Technicians, she is an in uential gure in the envelope-pushing arts scene. Moreover, her ance, Walid Zarrouk, is a prominent
government critic with his own history (http://www.tunisia-live.net/2013/09/10/security-union-member-arrested-after-makingaccusations-against-government/) of being arrested on similar charges. A spokesperson for the Union of Republican Security Forces
and a former prison o cer himself, Zarrouk also founded an organization, Mourakeb, that aims to keep police forces accountable
to human rights, directly challenging their authority.
Ben Othman also believes that she has been treated unfairly while awaiting her trial. Since her arrest, her defense argues that her
con nement in a Manouba prison without eligibility for bail is unwarranted because she doesn’t present a threat to herself or the
AI has repeatedly called for reforms of Tunisia’s legal system, which it considers to threaten hopes for post-revolution freedoms of
speech with the inclusion of “laws that criminalize insult and defamation against government critics, journalists, bloggers, and
The organization’s statement recalls similar abuses of power against free speech that have recently been alleged, such as the
of blogger Yassine Ayari and union leader Sahabi Jouini.
Jeremy Fryd (http://www.tunisia-live.net/?author=635)
Jeremy is a journalist for Tunisia Live whose interests range from American foreign policy to ancient history. He
has a Bachelors degree in Political Science from Boston College. Jeremy speaks English and Spanish.