Yassine Ayari, a blogger in Tunisia, has been sentenced to one year in jail by a military court today Amnesty International can confirm. He was convicted during a re-trial on charges of “defaming the army” in a series of Facebook posts.
“Today’s one year prison sentence imposed on Yassine Ayari by a military court exposes the extent of the limits on freedom of expression in Tunisia. No one should be imprisoned simply for criticizing state officials or institutions. It is high time for the Tunisian authorities to abolish all laws that criminalize defamation and allow civilians to be tried in military courts,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Programme.
During the session, when defence lawyers complained that journalists were not allowed to be present at the re-trial, the President of the military court, a civil judge, responded by saying: “This not a court this is a [military] barracks”. Most defence lawyers reacted by leaving the court in protest. As a result, the defence lawyers were unable to defend their client and only procedural points were raised.