Human Rights Watch has criticized a two-year prison sentence for a Tunisian blogger, who criticized the prosecutor for failing to prosecute a Tunisian imam who appeared in a video that justified the killing of someone who insulted the Prophet Muhammad.
The organization said Tuesday that the Court of First Instance in the capital, Tunis, sentenced blogger Wajdi Al-Mahawashi to two years in prison on November 12 for posting a video on “Facebook” on November 1, in which he held the imam’s inaction accountable and opened an investigation. Which the court clerk found offensive.
The Imam’s video was released after the killing of teacher Samuel Patty at a public school in France on October 16 by a Chechen refugee after Patti showed cartoons of Messenger Muhammad in class as part of a class on freedom of speech. It appears that the video posted by the Imam was later removed from Facebook.
In a Facebook post, Al-Mahwashi criticized the prosecutor’s office for failing to investigate a complaint he made in 2019 against police officers who he claimed had been beaten.
The organization instead states that the “prosecutor accused Al-Mahawashi” of accusing officials of crimes without providing evidence, insulting others through communication networks, defamation and insulting a public official in the performance of his duties. The allegations are based on the Penal Code and the 2001 communication magazine in Tunisia.
Al-Mahawashi was arrested only one day after the video was released by members of the “Counter-Terrorism and Organized Crime Unit” in the Al-Khadra neighborhood and interrogated for at least four hours in the presence of his lawyer, Muhammad Ali Bousheib.
According to Bousheba, Al-Mahawashi told investigators that he was not targeting anyone with his post, and his goal was only to respond to the slander of the imam’s video, the sole purpose of which was to condemn extremist ideas and terrorism.
Bouchiba added: “We are witnessing an increase in prosecutions, which reminds us of a wave of arrests and lawsuits against bloggers and social media critics in 2017. These prosecutions have not really stopped, but have eased and are now returning.”
According to Human Rights Watch, Tunisian courts have sentenced six social media activists to jail since 2017 for critical criticism, but “Al-Mahawashi’s two years in prison is still the harshest against a blogger who criticizes the Internet,” Boucheiba said. .
Al-Mahawashi is currently serving a sentence in Mornaguia Prison in the capital, Tunisia, and his lawyers intend to appeal the verdict.