Jailed Tunisian MP goes on hunger strike before trial

Tunisian MP jailed after criticising president begins hunger strike
2 min read
09 September, 2021
MP Yassine Ayari began his hunger strike at the Mornaguia prison in protest of oppression faced by the military and his upcoming trial, his party has said.
Parliamentarian Yassine Ayari has gone on a hunger strike whilst in jail, his party has said [Getty]

A Tunisian MP suspended and jailed for condemning President Kais Saied has gone on hunger strike to protest his detention, his party has said.

Jailed MP Yassine Ayari leads the Hope and Action Movement. The party released a statement on Tuesday saying that he began the hunger strike at his cell in the Mornaguia prison on Tuesday morning.

Ayari was detained on 30 July after writing an sharing social media posts condemning the actions of President Kais Saied on 25 July - the day Saied froze Tunisia's parliament and suspended the prime minister in what has widely been acknowledged to be a coup.

A military court ruled he must serve jail time of two months, which are almost up.

Ayari's detention is "a major breach of freedom of expression", the party statement read.

Ayari's request for a conditional release was rejected without justification, although he met the necessary requirements for it, the party said.

Follow up procedures in complaints issued against Ayari were expedited, whilst complaints filed by him were not advanced despite there being strong evidence, the movement said, which "implies a clear intention to prolong his imprisonment".

The MP suffers from ill health, the party said, and his medical file was given to the prison administration. Incarceration is causing his health to deteriorate, it added.

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The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor called on Thursday for Ayari's release.

Youssef Salem, a legal researcher for the group, said "practises committed by the Mornaguia prison represent a clear violation of the inmate's rights", including the rights to "to communicate with relatives, a judge and the prison director". 

The monitor called for the Tunisian authorities "to stop using the law to silence opposing voices".

The Hope and Action Movement have organised a protest in Tunis against Ayari's upcoming military trial.

Ayari has long been a critic of the Tunisian authorities.

In November 2014, he was sentenced to three years of jail on charges of defaming the army, provoking outrage from human rights groups.

He was also sentenced to three months in prison in June 2018 after criticising the army, according to Human Rights Watch.