Tunisian MP imprisoned after criticizing president begins hunger strike

MP Yassine Ayari started his hunger strike in Mornaguia prison to protest against the oppression suffered by the army and his upcoming trial, his party said.

MP Yassine Ayari has started a hunger strike in prison, according to his party [Getty]

A Tunisian lawmaker suspended and imprisoned for condemning President Kais Saied has gone on a hunger strike to protest his detention, his party has said.

Imprisoned deputy Yassine Ayari leads the Mouvement Espoir et Action. The party released a statement on Tuesday saying it had started a hunger strike Tuesday morning in its cell in Mornaguia prison.

Ayari was arrested on July 30 after writing a social media post condemning President Kais Saied’s actions on July 25 – the day Saied froze Tunisia‘s parliament and suspended the prime minister in what has been widely recognized as a Rebellion.

A military court ruled that he should serve a two-month prison sentence, which is almost over.

Ayari’s detention is “a major violation of freedom of expression”, the party statement read.

Ayari’s request for parole was rejected without justification, although he meets the necessary conditions for it, the party said.

Follow-up procedures for complaints filed against Ayari have been expedited, while complaints filed by him have not moved forward despite the existence of strong evidence, the movement said, which ‘implies a clear intention to prolong his imprisonment’ .

The deputy suffers from health problems, the party said, and his medical file has been handed over to the prison administration. The incarceration is deteriorating his health, he added.

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Observatory called on Thursday for Ayari’s release.

Youssef Salem, legal researcher for the group, said that “the practices committed by Mornaguia prison represent a clear violation of the prisoner’s rights”, including the right to “communicate with relatives, a judge and the director of the prison “.

The observer called on the Tunisian authorities “to stop using the law to silence opposing voices”.

The Hope and Action Movement organized a demonstration in Tunis against Ayari’s upcoming military trial.

Ayari has long been a critic of the Tunisian authorities.

In November 2014, he was sentenced to three years in prison for defaming the military, sparking outrage from human rights groups.

He was also sentenced to three months in prison in June 2018 after criticizing the army, according to Human Rights Watch.

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