Tunisian protesters clash with policemen during a demonstration outside a Tunis courthouse against the detention of a journalist, yesterday.
TUNIS: A Tunisian journalist was detained yesterday for accusing the public prosecutor of fabricating evidence implicating a cameraman in an egg-throwing attack on a minister, prompting a union call to strike.
“The committal order was given even before our statements and the questioning of Zied el-Heni... This detention is illegal,” the journalist’s lawyer Moufida Belghrith said, after he was summoned to the central courthouse in Tunis.
Several dozen journalists and lawyers prevented police from executing the order, by blocking access to the judge’s office.
But the security forces finally managed to detain Heni, who was led away in a police convoy, amid shouting from protesters.
The national union of Tunisian journalists called a general strike, only the second in its history, in protest at Heni’s detention and to denounce pressure on the media by the Islamist-led government.
It also urged the country’s media to boycott “all the activities of government”.
The journalist is charged with accusing the public prosecutor, on television late last month, of having fabricated evidence against cameraman Mourad Meherzi, who is on trial for complicity in the egg attack on Culture Minister Mehdi Mabrouk.
Meherzi, who spent three weeks in detention before being freed on bail last week, insists he was merely doing his job in recording the incident, with Nasreddine Shili, the film-maker who hurled the egg, vouching for him.
The minister’s lawyer acknowledged last week that Meherzi was only doing his job, being at the scene of the incident, but the cameraman is still on trial and Shili remains in custody.
Just hours after his arrest, Heni renewed his accusations, despite the risk of being jailed.
“I am going to present to the judge two documents which prove what I have declared about the allegations of the public prosecutor Tarek Chkioua,” he said on his Facebook page.
“Chkioua argued... that the detention of my colleague Mourad Meherzi was decided on the basis of confessions about his involvement in a plot to attack the minister of culture,” Heni added.
“There is no proof. On the contrary, (Meherzi) has even refused to sign the statement (following his interrogation)... I will ask that Tarek Chkioua is tried for placing someone in detention without any legal basis.”
Heni was a fierce critic of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia’s former strongman toppled in Tunisia’s mass uprising in January 2011 that unleashed the Arab Spring. But he was never imprisoned, despite constant police harassment.
Since the revolution, he has regularly accused the Islamist party Ennahda, which heads the coalition government, of manipulating the courts and security forces for political ends.