Tunis- The First Instance Military Court has sentenced the Tunisian blogger Yassine Ayari to one year in prison after being charged with defaming military officials in some of his Facebook posts which were published in August and September, 2014.
After being arrested on December 24, 2014, Ayari was first sentenced to three years in prison on the same charges. Then, he was convicted in absentia without waiting for the trial to take place. He pleaded guilty for defaming and underestimating the military forces.
The following video is shot during a press conference organized by the committee of defense of Yassine Ayari on January 12, 2015.
Lawyers to Appeal Ruling
In a statement to Agence Tunis Afrique Presse, Ayari’s attorney, Malik Ben Omar, said that they have decided to appeal this ruling, as the sentenced blogger merely exercised his right of expression which is supposed to be guaranteed by the Tunisian Constitution.
Supporters of Ayari demand his release
On December 28, 2014, a protest was held in front of the Tunisian embassy in Paris to demand the release of Yassine Ayari. The protest was led by the chairman of the Pirates political party.
On January 3rd, 2015, a rally was held in front of the Consulate of Tunisia in Nice.
Another protest was held today in front of the First Instance Military Court in Tunis.
Social Media Reaction
Yassine Ayari’s arrest was followed by the launching of a number of groups, pages and events on Facebook in support of his release.
The beauty about freedom of speech is that even bloggers who did not share the same attitude and opinions of Ayari, they were against his arrest and conviction.
Lina Ben Mhenni, a Tunisian blogger and cyber-activist known for her disaccord with Yassine Ayari, shared the belief that he should have never been trialed by the military court.
She said that despite the facts that she disagrees with Yassine Ayari and that he never supported her and always tried to distort her image as well as that of her father, she strongly believes that “no civilian shall be trialed by the military court”. She then added “when are we ever going to be treated as citizens? when are we ever going to be equal before the law?”
Azyz Amami, another blogger and cyber-activist, heavily criticized the court’s ruling. He said that the sentence was “unjust” and that he “totally supports Yassine Ayari”.
A History of Arrests and Convictions
Ayari is a computer science engineer, as well as a journalist, blogger and cyber-activist. He is known for his constant criticism of the actions of the opposition and military institution.
Ayari is one of the initiators of the event “Nhar Ala Ammar” which occurred on May 22, 2010. He is also the founder of “Sawaed”, an association that once claimed to “defend democracy and protect Tunisia from the intentions of notorious forces”.
Authorities arrested Yassine Ayari several times before, under the pretext that his association (Sawaed) represented a threat to national security.
Yassine Ayari was arrested on July 28, 2013, upon his arrival at Tunis-Carthage airport and his passport was immediately seized by the civil police.
He got arrested another time on August, 2013, and he was banned from traveling.
On January 28, 2014, he pleaded guilty to threatening to kill Mondher Thabet, the former Secretary General of the Social Liberal Party. The threat was made via a status he published on his official Facebook fan page. The verdict was declared in absentia of the defendant. He was then declared not guilty after retrial.