January 29, 2010

Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
Palais Présidentiel
Tunis, Tunisia
Fax: +216 71 744 721

Minister of Justice and Human Rights
Béchir Tekkari
Ministry of Justice and Human Rights
31 boulevard Bab Benat
Tunis 1019, Tunisia
Fax: +216 71 568 106

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,400 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting the freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our deepest concern about the deteriorating health of imprisoned writer Taoufik Ben Brik.

According to our information, Mr. Ben Brik, who was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment on November 26, 2009, for “assault, damaging property, harming public decency and defamation,” is suffering from Cushing’s Syndrome, a chronic ailment that weakens immunity and requires that he needs to be under medical supervision. We fear that his life is in serious danger due to negligence by prison authorities and the poor hygiene conditions to which he has been subjected in Siliana prison, where he was illegally transferred as a retaliatory measure. We have strong reason to believe that Mr. Ben Brik has been targeted for publishing articles critical of President Ben Ali in the foreign press during the election campaign of October 2009.

Mr. Ben Brik’s doctors recently drew attention to the fragility of his health by stating that “his state of health and his hormonal treatment are at the origin of a significant weakness in his immune system. His condition requires regular follow-up and monitoring by a competent medical specialist. Strict hygiene standards must be respected to avoid any deterioration that could threaten his prognosis.” His family launched a hunger strike on January 6 as an ultimate expression of protest over “this slow death to which Taoufik Ben Brik is being subjected.”

PEN American Center is seriously concerned that the treatment of Taoufik Ben Brik is part of a systemic campaign of repression against journalists in Tunisia and is in violation of their right to freedom of expression. We therefore request unequivocal assurances from Tunisian authorities that Taoufik Ben Brik will receive the medical attention he requires as a matter of urgency, and we call for his immediate and unconditional release on humanitarian grounds and in accordance with 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Tunisia is a signatory.

Thank you for your consideration to this urgent matter.

Hannah Pakula                      
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee             

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H.E. Mr. Ghazi Jomaa
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Permanent Mission of Tunisia to the United Nations
31 Beekman Place
New York, NY 10022
Fax: (212) 751-0569

Mrs. Dalenda Belhadj Jomaa
Directeur général des prisons
Rue 8003, Appartement –L-
Espace de Tunis Monplaisir
Fax: +216 71 904 472

>> Back to Rapid Action