Al Jazeera journalist Samir Sassi released in Tunis two days after arrest

Sassi was arrested on Wednesday at his house.

Al Jazeera journalist Samir Sassi, who was arrested in Tunis, Tunisia on Wednesday night but has now been released [Courtesy the Sassi family]
Al Jazeera journalist Samir Sassi, who was arrested in Tunis, Tunisia on Wednesday night but has now been released [Courtesy the Sassi family]

The Al Jazeera journalist, Samir Sassi, has been released by a court in Tunis, following his arrest on terrorism charges earlier this week.

Police first entered Sassi’s house late on Wednesday evening, searching his computer and confiscating his mobile phone and those of his wife and four children.

Speaking to the press agency AFP, Sassi’s lawyer, Ayachi Hammami – a prominent former member of parliament and human rights activist, confirmed that his client had been released.

Speaking separately, a source with knowledge of the matter suggested to Al Jazeera that no further action was presently being considered by authorities, “for now, at least,” they added.

Responding to Sassi’s release, Khaled Drareni, the North African representative of the press freedom organisation, Reporters Sans Frontieres told Al Jazeera, “We condemn the unjustified arrest of Samir Sassi, and continue to call on the Tunisian authorities to cease all forms of harassment against journalists.

“In our view, this latest arrest is further evidence of the authorities’ strategy of threatening press freedom in the country and creating a climate of fear for journalists,” he said.

Prosecutions of journalists and opponents of the government have continued apace since the introduction of Decree Law 54, ostensibly intended to combat misinformation online. Its provisions have increasingly been used to muzzle criticism of Saied’s presidency. At the time of writing, more than 20 journalists and activists were awaiting trial after being charged for online offences.

Police recently arrested three journalists – Khalifa Guesmi of Mosaique FM, Chadha Hadj Mbarek, and well-known radio journalist Zied el-Heni on December 28, charging him with insulting Tunisian Commerce Minister Kalthoum Ben Rejeb, on his radio programme, Emission Impossible.

“The detention of journalists in such a reckless manner reflects an authoritarian mindset of the authorities tracking anyone who expresses their opinion,” Mahdi Jlassi, president of the National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT), told Al Jazeera. “What’s alarming in Samir Sassi’s case is that he was interrogated for 48 hours under the terrorism law, deprived of his right to have a lawyer present during the interrogation.

“This constitutes a blatant violation of fair trial conditions. This breach, along with the disregard for procedures, the right to defence, the right to a fair trial, and ensuring the presumption of innocence … all are characteristics of political trials and trials based on opinion in Tunisia for over two years.”

The United Nations human rights chief Volker Turk said last year he was “deeply concerned” about the crackdown on media in Tunisia, with vaguely worded legislation used to criminalise criticism.

The SNJT is currently planning on staging a protest outside the country’s principal court in Tunis when el-Heni, the radio journalist, appears there on Wednesday.

Source: Al Jazeera