EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: MDE 30/15/94
UA 190/94 Prisoner of conscience / Torture / Medical Concern 17 May 1994
TUNISIA Mohamed Hedi SASSI
Amnesty International is concerned at the detention of Mohamed Hedi Sassi as
a prisoner of conscience and at reports that he was tortured during incommunicado
detention in police custody.
Mohamed Hedi Sassi was reportedly arrested on 18 April 1994 and tortured during
incommunicado detention in Bardo Police Station in Tunis. He stated to his
lawyers and to the court that he was beaten while tied and suspended in contorted
positions and had a liquid containing chemical products poured into his mouth
and nose. The defence lawyer confirmed that bruises and marks were still visible
on his forehead, wrists, legs and feet more than a week after his arrest.
In addition Mohamed Sassi has complained of loss of hearing in one ear after
being beaten with a truncheon.
He is charged with belonging to the unauthorized Parti communiste des ouvriers
tunisiens, PCOT, (Tunisian Workers' Communist Party), distributing
unauthorized leaflets, and writing slogans on walls, but he denies all the
charges. The leaflets he is accused of distributing contained information
concerning the recent trial of a PCOT leader and condemned the lack of freedom
of expression in Tunisia. The slogan he is accused of writing quoted the verse
"chains must be broken" from a poem by the Tunisian poet Belkacem Chebbi.
Mohamed Hedi Sassi had previously been sentenced in absentia to 18 months'
imprisonment on similar charges and was in hiding. Although his arrest date
is recorded in police statements as 23 April, his family and lawyer learned
of his arrest on 18 April and for over a week they made repeated but unsuccessful
inquiries with the authorities to obtain information on his whereabouts. The
practice of falsifying arrest dates has often been used to hide the real duration
of incommunicado detention, when detainees are tortured and ill-treated to
force them to sign confessions which are then accepted by the courts as evidence
against the accused.
In a new wave of repression over the past three months a number of known or
suspected political opponents and government critics have been detained as
prisoners of conscience or arbitrarily arrested for interrogation, and
relatives of detainees have continued to suffer harassment. Foreign
journalists and observers have also been expelled or refused entry to Tunisia
and foreign printed media banned from circulating in the country.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express and airmail
letters either in French/Arabic/English or in your own language:
- expressing concern at the detention of Mohamed Hedi Sassi as a prisoner of
conscience and urging the authorities to release him immediately and
- expressing concern at reports that he was tortured during incommunicado
detention, and urging the authorities to carry out a full and independent
investigation into the allegations of torture;
- expressing concern that he is reported to have suffered loss of hearing after
being beaten, seeking assurance that he will be given a medical examination
and any medical care he requires.