Tunisia’s new government has promised the release of hundreds of political prisoners under an amnesty. The news saw scores of relatives waiting anxiously outside prison gates across the country.
One prisoner’s father said: “I’m waiting for my son, who’s a political prisoner. He was arrested in July 2008.”
This political softening is a stark contrast to the autocratic rule of ex-president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who remained in power for 23 years until he was ousted recently.
Another prisoner’s father said: “I came here to see my son. He said he did nothing. He was forced to sign a blank sheet of paper.”
As many as 1,800 are due to be released, although relatives have complained of a lack of information from prisons and the authorities.
One woman said she was waiting for her son: “They came to the house and took him. They gave him a five-year sentence and tortured him and tortured him to the point of death. We were tortured alongside him. But he hasn’t been released yet.”
As an Amnesty International delegation arrived in the capital Tunis to investigate violations of human rights, it was not yet clear whether all 1,800 would eventually be freed.