Jailed Tunisian opposition leader’s health deteriorating: Wife

Sahbi Atig has been hospitalised in intensive care after 25-day hunger strike in protest of his imprisonment.

Supporters of Tunisia's biggest political party, the moderate Islamist Ennahda, march during a rally in opposition to President Kais Saied
Supporters of Tunisia's biggest political party, Ennahdha, march against President Kais Saied in Tunis [File: Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters]

An opposition leader’s health is deteriorating rapidly in a Tunisian jail after an almost monthlong hunger strike, his wife says

Sahbi 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.

He was hospitalised in intensive care after hunger striking for 25 days in protest of his imprisonment, his wife, Zainab al-Marayhi ,said.

Atig was charged with money laundering and false testimony. He has maintained his innocence, and his family and Ennahdha said the charges were brought as part of President Kais Saied’s crackdown on his political opponents.

Al-Marayhi told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed news website that she visited her husband on Monday but prison guards cut her visit short due to Atig’s frail condition. She said he struggled to stand and even fainted at one point.

“My husband has lost about 20kg [44 pounds] and suffers from stomach and heart pains. He is kept in a room with several prisoners who smoke cigarettes, and this worsens his health condition, and he needs a wheelchair,” Al-Marayhi told the Qatari-based website.

The Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK said Atig is in immediate need of medical intervention and adequate healthcare to protect “his right to life”.

“Preventing Atig’s wife from visiting him constitutes a clear violation of his right to contact his family members,” the group said.

Saied’s crackdown against the opposition has raised fears of Tunisia regressing back into a dictatorship more than 10 years after the first pro-democracy protests broke out in the so-called Arab Spring.

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

Source: Al Jazeera