Tunisians demand release of jailed police critic


About 150 people protested in the centre of the Tunisian capital demanding the release of Samir Feriani, a police employee who was jailed after he publicly criticised the Interior Ministry.

The protesters, who gathered outside the Interior Ministry headquarters, waved portraits of Feriani and chanted: “We are all Samir Feriani!” and “Freedom for Samir!”.

Tunisia overthrew its autocratic President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in a popular uprising in January that provided the inspiration for revolts elsewhere in the Arab world, Reuters reports.

The caretaker government which took over from Ben Ali promised to allow free speech after decades of repressive rule, and Tunisians react angrily to any sign the authorities are back-tracking on that commitment.

Police detained Feriani, a senior civilian manager in the police force, last month after he criticised Interior Ministry recruitment policy in letters to a newspaper. The charges against him include revealing restricted information.

New York-based campaign group Human Rights Watch said in a statement Feriani should be freed and charges relating to his criticisms should be dropped.
“At a time when many Tunisians believe that the officials who terrorized people under Ben Ali remain strong within the security establishment, the provisional government should be encouraging whistle-blowers, not using the ousted government’s discredited laws to imprison them,” said Human Rights Watch.

Police deployed in large numbers to monitor the protest but there were no incidents.