Release of Wrongfully Imprisoned Tunisian Human Rights Lawyer Abbou a “Welcome Step”
NEW YORK – The head of a leading human rights advocacy group welcomed today’s release in Tunisia of Mohamed Abbou. President Ben Ali ordered the release on parole of the human rights defender and lawyer on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the republican system in Tunisia. Abbou’s imprisonment had become a symbol of the continuing repression faced by the human rights movement in Tunisia.
“The decision to release Mohammed Abbou is a welcome step by the Tunisian government,” said Maureen Byrnes, Executive Director of Human Rights First, adding,
“This is an important success for the human rights community in Tunisia and the result of their sustained efforts to obtain the release of their wrongly jailed colleague.”
“We hope that the initiative to release Mohamed Abbou will be followed by other positive moves by the government in connection with Tunisia’s human rights movement. The government should cease its harassment and intrusive surveillance of human rights defenders and drop all politically motivated prosecutions brought against them,” Byrnes said.
Mohamed Abbou has devoted his legal practice to defending, on a pro bono basis, those who are being persecuted for peacefully expressing their opinions. He was formerly the director of the Association of Young Lawyers of Tunisia and is a member of the International Association for the Support of Political Prisoners (AISPP) and the National Committee for Liberties in Tunisia (CNLT).
He was arrested on March 1, 2005 following the publication of two online articles in which he denounced the use of torture in Tunisia. After an unfair trial in April 2005, Mohamed Abbou was sentenced to three-and-a-half years’ imprisonment and detained at el-Kef, a town that is more than 100 miles from his family home in Tunis.
Human Rights First has followed Mohamed Abbou’s case since his arrest and has repeatedly called for his release, most recently in a meeting with the Tunisian ambassador in Washington D.C. last week.