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TUNISIA: Jailed journalist's family plans to go on hunger strike

January 8, 2010 | 11:48 am

Ben brik The wife of jailed dissident journalist Taoufik Ben Brik has announced her family plans to go on a hunger strike until her husband is released.

"Taoufik's health is very bad. He is in a lot of pain. ... The only weapons we have left are our bodies," Azza Zarrad told Reuters.

The 49-year-old Ben Brik suffers from a rare medical condition and requires regular treatment. In November, Ben Brik, who has worked for a number of French media outlets, was sentenced to six months in prison on charges of assaulting a woman.

His family and Amnesty International have described the trial as unfair and claim the charges were trumped up in order to punish him for speaking out against the government. 

Even France, a close ally of Tunisia, expressed concern about the arrest.

Ben Brik was taken into custody just days after Tunisian President Zine Abedine Ben Ali, who has ruled the country since 1987, extended his mandate in an election described by critics as a "masquerade."

According to Amnesty International, the court relied on forged testimony and failed to allow Ben Brik's defense lawyers to fully present their case or cross-examine prosecution witnesses.

--Meris Lutz in Beirut

Photo: A demonstrator from Reporters Without Borders protests Ben Brik's imprisonment. Credit: AFP