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Tunisia: Army Critic Sentenced to Two Months in Prison

This post is part of our special coverage Tunisia Revolution 2011.

On November 9, 2011, Nabil Hajlaoui, an agronomist from Sidi Bouzid, was sentenced to two months in prison following his criticism of the Tunisian military institution. According to Houssem Hajlaoui, an author for the collective blog Nawaat, Nabil Hajlaoui was arrested after writing an article, in which he blamed the army for the recent riots and acts of vandalism which took place in Sidi Bouzid following the elections.

Houssem Hajlaoui writes [ar]:

على إثر تعرّض المرافق الحيويّة والمؤسّسات الوطنيّة بسيدي بوزيد للإتلاف والحرق على خلفيّة الحوادث الأليمة الّتي جرت في مدينة سيدي بوزيد وذلك بعد الإعلان عن نتائج الانتخابات، اعتقل المناضل نبيل حجلاوي من طرف الجيش التّونسي على خلفيّة مقال ينتقد فيه تحرّك الجيش منذ بداية الأحداث
Right after the announcement of the election results, which resulted in painful incidents in Sidi Bouzid, and led to the vandalizing, and the burning of vital facilities and national institutions, in Sidi Bouzid, the activist Nabil Hajlaoui was arrested by the Tunisian army, following an article he wrote criticising the actions of the army since the beginning of the events

He adds:

الاستاذ نبيل حجلاوي ليس الوحيد في سيدي بوزيد الذي وجّه تهم السّلبيّة و التّقاعس للجيش الوطني على ضوء تعامله مع أعمال العنف التي اندلعت في المدينة على هامش الاعلان عن نتائج انتخابات المجلس التّأسيسي, حيث قام مجموعة من المحامين و الحقوقيين بتقديم شكوى رسميّة ضدّ المؤسّسة العسكريّة
Professor Nabil Hajlaoui is not the only one in Sidi Bouzid who blamed the army for their passivity, and laziness in dealing with the acts of violence which followed the announcement of the constituent assembly election results. A group of lawyers, and jurists also filed an official complaint against the military institution
Post-election riots in Sidi Bouzid. Photo by SBZone

Post-election riots in Sidi Bouzid. Photo by SBZone

Following the announcement of the preliminary election results on the night of October 27, demonstrators took to the streets of Sidi Bouzid to protest against a decision made by the independent commission for the election, which disqualified a number of seats previously attributed to an independent list called ”the Popular Petition,” over ”campaign finance violations.”

The ”Popular Petition” won the majority of the votes in Sidi Bouzid, where the protests movement which overthrew ousted President Zeine El Abidine Ben Ali kicked off. It is worth mentioning that on November 8 the Administrative Court issued a verdict, by which the ”Popular Petition” regained seven seats at the assembly.

Nabil Hajlaoui, a Tunisian civilian, stood trial in front a military court, in Sfax (South of Tunisia).

Nadia A. tweets [fr]:

En pratique comment empêcher des cas Hajlaoui? Qui a les prérogatives nécessaires pour interdire le jugement de civils par les militaires?

Practically, how can cases like that of Hajlaoui be prevented? Who has the necessary prerogatives, to prevent the trial of civilians by the military?
"Family of Nabil Hajlaoui cries out: Release our son...He is innocent"

"Family of Nabil Hajlaoui cries out: Release our son…He is innocent"

This is not the first time in post-revolution Tunisia that someone has been arrested for speaking out and practicing the right of freedom of expression. On May 29, whistleblower Samir Feriani was arrested after criticising the Interior Ministry. He was released four months later.

Samira Abed tweets:

Before #Hajlaoui becomes a #Feriani can some 1 post his article? I want to know if what he wrote is worth arresting him for! #sidiBouzid

The Family of Nabil Hajlaoui, along with a number of activists, organized a protest calling for his immediate release. Among the charges directed at him is ”spreading chaos.” His family says he was arrested for criticising the Tunisian military institution.

This post is part of our special coverage Tunisia Revolution 2011.

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