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Tunisian journalist freed

Slim Boukhdir was released on Monday, 21 July, and informed that he had been granted a conditional release by the Minister of Justice. He was not given any further explanation. His release is apparently conditional on his “good behaviour”; if convicted of a similar crime he has been told he would have to serve out the rest of his sentence. Slim Boukhdir was arrested on 26 November 2007 and charged with "insulting a public officer during the performance of his duties", "breaching public morality" and "refusing to show his identity card." He was sentenced to one year in prison on 4 December in a trial held in the city of Sfax that was observed by Amnesty International. His trial was unfair and Amnesty International considered him a prisoner of conscience and campaigned for his release. Amnesty International described the sentence as "another attempt by the authorities to stifle peaceful criticism” and said that it appeared intended to send a “chilling signal” to independent voices that criticism of the government’s policies and actions or of President Ben Ali or his family would not be tolerated. Slim Boukhdir wrote mainly for Arabic-language media such as the London-based daily newspaper Al Quds Al-Araby and Al-Arabiya.net. In May 2007, he received anonymous telephone death threats, which he believed came from security officers, after he gave an interview to the London-based satellite TV channel al-Hiwar (Dialogue). He said in the interview that a relative of President Ben Ali should take responsibility for a stampede at a concert which he had arranged, in which seven people died. Amnesty International, while welcoming the release, called on the Tunisian authorities to allow journalists to work free from harassment, interference or fear of imprisonment and protect freedom of expression in accordance with its international obligations.