Geneva – Warning that detaining individuals for exercising freedom of expression is a flagrant violation of human rights, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor is calling on Tunisian authorities to immediately release Yassine Ayari, 33, activist and blogger.

The Tunisian military court sentenced Ayari to one year in prison for “defaming and harming the dignity of the army”after he published four articles on his blog and Facebook criticizing the minister of national defense. “The sentence is unjust; it was used against him to settle personal scores,” charged Yassine’s brother, Mutee’ Ayari.

The blogger was arrested in the Tunis airport on 24 December upon his arrival from Paris and was informed that a military court had tried him in absentia, sentencing him to three years in prison retroactive to 18 November.

Yassine’s lawyer, Samir Bin Omer, said that he visited the blogger in prison and Ayari reports being refused such basic necessities as medicine.

“The court based its ruling on chapter 91 of the country’s Pleadings and Military Sanctions, which were drafted in 1957,” said Ihsan Adel, Euro-Med Monitor legal advisor. “That violates chapter 31 of the new Tunisian constitution, adopted in 2014, which declares that "the state shall guarantee the right to access the media and information" ,and article 19, which says that everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression and opinion. In addition, taking a civilian before a military court violates the guarantee of a fair trial.”

Euro-Med Monitor is calling on Tunisian authorities to immediately release Yassine Ayari or to retry him before a civilian court, halt violations of freedom of expression and opinion among the citizenry, and to respect all political opinions and perspectives. In addition, the Tunisian Congress should amend the law to ensure that civilians are not tried in military courts.

Euro-Med Monitor is an independent, nonprofit organization for the protection of human rights in the MENA region. The organization was established in 2011 and is based in Geneva.

For more information, contact Ihsan Adel, Euro-Med Monitor legal advisor

+44 7578 488855