Tunisia: Families of political prisoners to stage sit-in 'until detainees are released'

Tunisia: Families of political prisoners to stage sit-in 'until detainees are released'
Scores of critics of President Kais Saied are still languishing in prison on charges of "conspiring against state security", with many on hunger strike.
2 min read
04 October, 2023
Multiple protests and sit-ins have taken place against Kais Saied's autocratic rule in Tunisia [Getty]

Families of hunger-striking political prisoners in Tunisia announced on Tuesday that they will begin an open-ended sit-in protest against their loved ones' detention.

The sit-in will take place in the capital Tunis at the headquarters of the Republican Party, and will carry on until the detainees are released, the families said.

Republican Party Secretary-General Abdelaziz Chebbi said in a statement to The New Arab’s Arabic-language site, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, that the move comes after activists had "engaged in all peaceful means and protests to call for the detainees’ release".

Chebbi stressed that "the demands have not changed, and the coming days will witness the announcement of successive hunger strikes".  He also called on "all patriots and free people" to support the sit-in, adding that families are also seeking that the charges brought against them to be dropped.

A coordination committee made up of detainees’ families has also called for "a day of rage” on Thursday, when they will go on a hunger strike in solidarity with imprisoned relatives charged with "conspiracy against state security."

In February, Tunisian authorities intensified their crackdown against critics of President Kais Saied.

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Among those detained include journalists, businessmen, lawyers and politicians, including many affiliated with the Islamist-inspired Ennahda Party.

Many political detainees, including Jawhar Ben Mbarek, have gone on hunger strike.

The Acting Secretary-General of the Republican Party, Abdellatif El-Harmasi, said in a speech that "the families present today are in pain and living in darkness, enduring hardships in order to respond to the detainees' needs."

President Saied suspended the elected parliament and sacked the prime minister in a power grab in 2021. Since then he has reimposed authoritarian rule, arresting political opponents and clamping down on freedom of speech.

Prior to the power grab, Tunisia was considered the only successful democracy to emerge from the 2011 Arab Spring protests.

Amnesty International has urged authorities on numerous occasions to release the detainees, emphasising that jailing dissidents "sends a chilling message that no Tunisian can freely express his or her opinions without fear of human rights violations".