Euro-Med Monitor calls on Tunisia to release hunger striker Atig

Opposition politician Sahbi Atig is no longer able to walk or talk, his wife says, as human rights groups denounce president’s continuing crackdown on dissent.

People take part in a protest against president Kais Saied policies, in Tunis, Tunisia
Tunisians protest against the arrest of political opponents of President Kais Saied [File: Hassene Dridi/AP]

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor has called on Tunisia to free jailed politician Sahbi Atig, whose health has been deteriorating amid a continuing hunger strike.

Atig, a member of the Shura Council for the moderate opposition Ennahdha party, was arrested on May 6 after security forces prevented him from flying to attend a conference in Turkey.

The Geneva-based Euro-Med Monitor called in a press statement on Saturday for his “unconditional and immediate release”.

Tunisian security forces accused Atig of money laundering without providing legal evidence to back the claim, the group said.

He announced a hunger strike on May 12 in protest against what he sees as unjust punishment.

His wife, Zainab al-Marayhi, told Euro-Med Monitor that Atig’s health was rapidly deteriorating and that he was no longer able to walk or talk. “We live in fear of losing him at any minute,” she said, according to the group.

The family and Ennahdha have maintained that the charges were brought as part of President Kais Saied’s crackdown on political opponents.

Since Saied’s suspension of parliament in July 2021, numerous opposition figures have been imprisoned, many of them from the Ennahdha party, formerly the biggest.

Saied’s manoeuvring has raised fears of Tunisia regressing into a dictatorship more than 12 years after the first pro-democracy protests broke out in the so-called Arab Spring.

Euro-Med Monitor said in a statement that the lack of evidence against Atig “reflects a clear disregard for his life” and warned of Tunisia’s progressive drift away from international law and the right to freedom of expression.

The group added that over the past months it documented the arrest of political opponents including politicians, judges, businessmen and journalists on broad and vague charges such as terrorism, money laundering and conspiracy against the state.

It added that arbitrary detention “cannot be justified in any circumstance”.

In April, authorities jailed prominent opposition leader Rached Ghannouchi and raided the headquarters of his Ennahdha party.

Ghannouchi was sentenced in absentia last month to a year in prison after being found guilty of incitement.

Amnesty International said in a statement that the court’s decision highlighted “an intensifying campaign against the country’s largest party”.

Ennahdha’s Vice President Ali Laarayedh, a former prime minister, was also imprisoned in relation to similar accusations in December.

Source: Al Jazeera