Jailed Tunisian MP Yassine Ayari goes on hunger strike

Ayari is serving two-month sentence imposed in 2018 by a military court after president lifted his immunity

Yassine Ayari is said to be refusing food at Mornaguia prison where he is serving a two-month sentence. AFP
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Yassine Ayari, the Tunisian MP jailed at the end of July in connection with an outstanding 2018 conviction in military court for Facebook posts critical of the army, launched a hunger strike on September 7, his party has said.

In a statement issued on their Facebook page, the Amal Movement said Mr Ayari was refusing food at Mornaguia prison where he is serving a two-month sentence after being denied parole.

Mr Ayari, an influential blogger during the 2011 revolution and an anti-corruption advocate, was one of the first MPs to face judicial repercussions for outstanding convictions after President Kais Saied revoked immunity for MPs shortly after he froze Parliament and assumed sole control of the country in late July.

The 2018 trial came after Mr Ayari called then-president Beji Caid Essebsi a “clown” in a Facebook post, and intimated he used the military to suppress the population. The Military Court of Appeal convicted Mr Ayari, who is a civilian, on charges of “defaming the army”.

In its statement, the Amal Movement said Mr Ayari was also protesting against “the involvement of military courts to stifle the voice of civilians”.

Mr Ayari, who was elected in 2017 as an independent representing Tunisians in Germany, did not serve his sentence because members of Parliament enjoyed prosecutorial immunity. Mr Saied revoked that immunity after assuming control and Mr Ayari was arrested on July 30.

Several other MPs have subsequently been arrested in connection with previous legal issues, although about a dozen others with outstanding charges remain free.

The Amal Movement said Mr Ayari considers his sentence a “serious violation of the freedom of expression” and that he “also calls to immediately drop all charges against him and believes there is a clear intention to prolong his imprisonment indefinitely”.

Updated: September 09, 2021, 10:09 PM