Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki was asked by Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch’s executive director about free speech prosecutions in Tunisia and in particular the case of Jabeur Mejri. Last year a court sentenced Mejri to seven and half years in prison for posting Prophet Muhammad caricatures on his facebook page. He was found guilty of “publishing material liable to cause harm to public order or good morals”, “insulting others through public communication networks” and “assaulting public morals.”
At the CFR Marzouki said regarding the case of Jabeur Mejri:
I was very deeply shocked by this…It’s sad to sentence a young man to seven years in prison…We have a very traditional and very conservative society. Be sure I’m just waiting for the good political moment to release this guy.
Now when you have this situation with the Salafists, extremely violent, releasing this guy right now could be dangerous for himself.
Marzouki’s statement is nothing but a desperate attempt to justify a broken promise. Last April, Mejri lost appeal at Tunisia’s supreme court and his lawyers were only left with one choice: applying for a presidential pardon. President Marzouki had previously pledged to issue a presidential pardon releasing Mejri, but has so far not done so. On the occasion of Eid celebration in August, he granted presidential pardons to more than 300 prisoners but Mejri was not included.Mejri’s plight seems to only attract the attention of few activists, free speech advocates and civil-society groups. Fearing to loose support among conservative voters, even the self-proclaimed progressive and secular political parties have not spoken up against this injustice.