Amnesty Urgent Actions
Accueil Urgent Actions 2023 05 Political activists unjustly detained
UA 052/23
Terminée le 17 juillet 2023
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Following confirmation that one of the individuals mentioned in the Additional Information section, Noureddine Boutar, has been released on bail, we have removed his name and edited the UA accordingly. Reflecting this change, the summary paragraph now says:

Authorities have detained at least 9 (not 10) people under this investigation including opposition figures Chaima Issa and Jaouhar Ben Mbarek as well as politician Khayam Turki.

Political activists unjustly detained

AI-Index: MDE 30/6815/2023

Since February 2023, Tunisian authorities have opened criminal investigations against at least 21 people including political opposition activists, lawyers, and businessmen on unfounded accusations of conspiracy. Authorities have detained at least 9 people under this investigation including opposition figures Chaima Issa and Jaouhar Ben Mbarek as well as politician Khayam Turki. Tunisia's anti-terrorism court is investigating them under 10 articles of the Penal Code – including Article 72, which mandates the death penalty for trying to «change the nature of the state». We call on the Tunisian authorities to drop the charges against Chaima Issa, Jaouhar Ben Mbarek and Khayam Turki and immediately release them as they are detained for exercising their human rights through activism.


Since February 2023, Tunisian authorities have opened criminal investigations against at least 21 people on unfounded conspiracy accusations. At least 9 people are currently detained in relation to this investigation including politician Khayam Turki arrested on 11 February; prominent businessman Kamel Eltaief arrested on 11 February; dissident and politician Abdelhamid Jelassi arrested on 12 February; lawyer and dissident Lazhar Akremi arrested on 13 February; opposition activists Chaima Issa and Issam Chebbi arrested on 22 February; opposition activist Jaouhar Ben Mbarek arrested on 24 February; and finally lawyers Ghazi Chaouachi and Ridha Belhaj arrested on 25 February. Chaima Issa is a prominent Tunisian activist and leading opposition figure in the National Salvation Front (NSF), one of the main opposition coalitions in Tunisia. She was arrested on 22 February 2023 while she was driving in Tunis with her sister and is currently detained in the Manouba prison, Tunis. In a separate case, a military court is also investigating Chaima Issa under Article 24 of the draconian cybercrimes Decree-Law 2022-54 for remarks about authorities made during a radio interview on 22 December 2022. The authorities have also barred her from travelling abroad. Under international human rights law, civilians should never be tried before military courts and Tunisia’s military courts lack independence as defined. If tried and convicted, she could face up to 10 years in prison under the decree-law.

Jaouhar Ben Mbarek is also a prominent Tunisian activist and one of the leaders of the National Salvation Front (NSF). Like, Chaima, he is also one of the founders of «Citizens against the coup», a political initiative critical of President Saied’s 2021 power grab. He was involved in the organization of several protests in Tunis calling for the removal of President Saied and his government. He was arrested on 24 February 2023 and taken to Bouchoucha detention centre after security forces raided and searched his house. Prior to his arrest, police also briefly arrested his father Ezzedine Hazgui who is also a vocal critic of President Saied. Jaouhar Ben Mbarek is currently detained in Mornaguia prison in Tunis.

Khayam Turki is a Tunisian politician and director of a think tank named Joussour (Bridges). He also was the Secretary General of the Ettakatol opposition party before stepping down in 2015. In 2020, Khayam Turki's name was suggested by several political parties to Tunisian president Kais Saied to become the next head of government. He was arrested on 11 February 2023 at his home in Tunis after security forces raided and searched his house. He is currently held in the Mornaguia prison in Tunis.

Since suspending parliament and claiming sweeping emergency powers on 25 July 2021, President Saied has issued decree-laws and overseen the adoption of a new constitution that grant him the final word on judicial appointments and the power to dismiss judges summarily.

As of 11 February 2023, when the most recent wave of arrests began, courts have already investigated or prosecuted at least 32 people for the legitimate exercise of their right to freedom of expression amid a broader erosion of human rights since 25 July 2021.

On 14 February 2023, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk expressed concern over the recent wave of arrests against civil society figures and perceived opponents as well as the Tunisian authorities’ sustained attacks on the judiciary. A spokesperson for the commissioner specifically mentioned the criminal proceedings initiated against «perceived political opponents» charged with «conspiracy against State security». The commissioner called on the Tunisian authorities to «respect due process and fair trial standards in all judicial proceedings and to release immediately all those arbitrarily detained, including anyone detained in relation to the exercise of their rights to freedom of opinion or expression».

On 22 February 2023, President Saied declared that anyone who «dared to exonerate» what he described as «criminal networks» was, in essence, an «accomplice». This statement, coupled with the president’s arbitrary dismissal of 57 judges in 2022, has contributed to a growing climate of intimidation of the judiciary.

On 30 March 2023, a Tunisian court refused a request for provisional release by lawyers of eight people detained under the «conspiracy» investigation, including Chaima Issa, Jaouhar Ben Mbarek and Khayam Turki.

Protect the Protest

Mit der Kampagne «Protect the Protest!» richtet sich Amnesty International gegen Angriffe auf friedliche Proteste, solidarisiert sich mit den Betroffenen und unterstützt die Anliegen sozialer Bewegungen, die sich für die Menschenrechte einsetzen.

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La campagne Protect the Protest d’Amnesty International a pour objectifs de dénoncer les attaques contre les manifestations pacifiques, de défendre les personnes visées et de soutenir les causes portées par les mouvements sociaux en faveur de changements dans le domaine des droits humains.

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