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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08TUNIS1145 2008-11-06 17:26:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tunis
Cable title:  

JOURNALIST, LAWYER POSSIBLE TARGETS OF GOT

Tags:   PHUM PGOV PREL KDEM KPAO TS 
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VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTU #1145/01 3111726
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 061726Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY TUNIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5723
INFO RUCNMGH/MAGHREB COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L TUNIS 001145 

SIPDIS

NEA/MAG (NARDI/STEWART); DRL (JOHNSTONE/KLARMAN)
LONDON AND PARIS FOR NEA WATCHER

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/05/2018
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL KDEM KPAO TS
SUBJECT: JOURNALIST, LAWYER POSSIBLE TARGETS OF GOT
HARASSMENT; LAWYER STARTS HUNGER STRIKE

Classified By: Ambassador Robert F. Godec for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

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Summary
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1. (C) Journalist Neziha Rejiba, better known by her pen
name Om Zied, and her husband attorney Mokhtar Jallali have
both had recent legal difficulties, giving rise to
speculation that they are the targets of GOT harassment. As
is common in Tunisia, Jallali remains in prison following a
car accident that resulted in a fatality, even though police
determined he was not at fault. His lawyers' request that he
be released to obtain medical attention was denied however.
On November 4, Jallali reportedly began an open-ended hunger
strike to protest his incarceration. Neziha Rejiba faces
defamation charges, stemming from an article she authored
that was re-printed in the opposition Democratic Forum for
Freedom and Labor's Arabic-monthly Moutinoun. End Summary.



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Jallali


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2. (C) On October 13, lawyer Mokhtar Jallali was involved in
a car accident in downtown Tunis. Jallali is a former member
of parliament, where he represented the loyal oppositionist
Unionist Democratic Union (UDU). After 16 years with UDU,
Jallali reportedly resigned from the party in March 2006 to
protest UDU's close ties to the GOT. The October 13 accident
occurred when his car was hit by another driver, resulting in
the death of a bystander. Jallali reportedly briefly lost
consciousness at the scene. He was determined not to be at
fault, and left the scene to seek medical treatment. The
driver who hit him was arrested at the time of the accident.
Jallali was arrested on October 15 as a protective measure,
which is not unusual in Tunisia for cases involving a
fatality.



3. (C) On October 21, his attorneys, who included the
President of the National Bar Association and the President
of the Tunis Bar Association, requested his provisional
release so that he could seek medical treatment. His
attorneys also argued that articles 84 and 85 of the Penal
Code under which he is being held only apply to those
considered responsible for an accident, not other victims
involved in the accident. The court did not release Jallali,
and no new court date has been set. His son told PolFSN on
October 24 that his father's health was poor, stemming from
complications from the accident and pre-existing conditions.
To protest his incarceration, Jallali reportedly began a
hunger strike the evening of November 4.



4. (C) Comment: It is not unusual for individuals to be
arrested in cases where a fatality is involved. In similar
cases, those involved in fatal accidents, even if not at
fault, have been held for weeks, sometimes months. GOT
officials have told us they do so to protect drivers from
possible revenge attacks by relatives of those who died in
the accident. It is possible, however, that the courts
decision not to let Jallali seek medical treatment or be
released early was influenced by his history as an activist.
End Comment.



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Rejiba


--------------------------





5. (C) On October 22, edition 77 of the independent
opposition Democratic Forum for Freedom and Labor's (FDTL)
Arabic-monthly Moutinoun was reported seized by security
forces because of an editorial accusing the GOT of ordering
the hacking of the website for the online magazine Kalima.
On October 24, the Secretary General of the FDTL told the DCM
that he had not received official notification that his
party's publication had been seized. The author of the
article in question, however, Neziha Rejiba (better known by
her pen name Om Zied) was summoned to appear in front of an
investigating magistrate for "making allegations in violation
of the law." The website for Kalima was hacked on October 8
and its online archives were reportedly destroyed. Rejiba's
article, originally published online, accused the GOT of
ordering Kalima's destruction because of the publication's
often critical reporting on the GOT and governmental
corruption. A decision whether or not to refer Rejiba's case
to trial has been postponed. No new hearing date has been
set. According to elaph.com, Rejiba said she had previously
received instructions to keep quiet until the Tunisian 2009
presidential and legislative elections are over, but instead

had decided to, "stay home and wait for policemen to come and
take me to prison where I will probably find interesting
material for my future work." If convicted, Rejiba could
face up to three years in prison and a fine for "spreading
false news" under article 49 of the press code.



6. (C) Editor of the opposition Progressive Democratic
Party's (PDP) Arabic-weekly al-Mowqif Rachid Khachana told
PolOff on October 25 that he was unsure that the FDTL's
leadership had knowingly published Rejiba's article.
Khachana said that the FDTL's publication process was
decentralized, with the Secretary General providing only
general oversight. As the paper lacks a large staff, it
frequently re-prints articles from the internet. He opined
that someone may have taken Rejiba's piece from the internet
without reading it closely, suggesting that it then slipped
through the cracks in the editorial process.



--------------------------


Comment


--------------------------





7. (C) In similar cases in the past, the journalists have
mostly been found guilty and sentenced to prison. In some
cases, however, the cases were left unresolved presumably as
a threat. In one notable exception, the defamation charges
against journalist Omar Mestiri were dropped after the case
received considerable international attention. The Embassy
will continue to follow this case closely, and will report on
developments as they occur. End Comment.
GODEC