Facing charges of disturbing public morality, Tunisian journalist and blogger Sofiane Chourabi gained a little time today. He was arrested on August 5 with fellow journalist Mehdi Jelassi and a female friend while camping on a beach in Kelibia. The court has postponed the judgment of the case to October 9 but the journalist fears for his life in a context of rising religious extremism.
For Chourabi’s lawyer, Anis Ezzine, this offense – punishable by 6 months in jail – has no legal basis. “There is no proof of disturbance of public morality. There was no public, they were in a tent, sound asleep. The police, when they arrived, entered the tent without authorisation.” The public prosecutor also dropped another charge of ‘public drinking’ since “there was no mention of alcohol in the police report,” Ezzine explained; he believes the postponement of the judgment will allow him a better review of the case and its new elements.
Chourabi, a prominent blogger who has won press-freedom awards and who was a staunch critic of both the former Ben Ali regime and Ennahdha, the main Islamist political party in power, has reasons to believe his arrest is politically-motivated. “I point my finger directly at the Ennahdha supporters and followers who have the habit to use dirty and unethical methods to target those who oppose them in thoughts,” the journalist said in a statement.
In an email discussion with euronews, Chourabi confided: “I don’t really feel at ease in this period with the exacerbating rise of salafism and extremism. I fear for my life every time I go in the streets to cover events attended with Ennahdha supporters.” His arrest did nothing to quell the tensions: “I fear they’ll attack me because they see me as a heathen who did not respect the holiness of Ramadan. People have called for my hanging.”
These death threats, uttered by anonymous social media users, forebode the worst for him but also for his country. “I think the domination of the Ennahdha party with the support of radical fringes will take the country toward a new dictatorship, but this time a theocratic one” Chourabi concluded.