A Tunisian lawyer and 21 other long-term political prisoners were released under a presidential pardon on 24 July to mark the 50th anniversary of the Republic of Tunisia.
Mohammed Abbou was released after having served 28 months of his 3½-year sentence. The human rights defender and lawyer had been adopted by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience detained solely for the peaceful expression of his views.
He was convicted for denouncing torture in Tunisia in an article he posted on the internet in 2004 and for allegedly assaulting a female colleague in 2002, The sentence was handed down in April 2005 after an unfair trial, which Amnesty International observed.
Most of the 21 other political prisoners who were released had been imprisoned for over 14 years because of their membership of the banned Islamist organization, Ennahda (Renaissance), after unfair trials before the Bouchoucha and Bab Saadoun military courts in 1992.
All of the releases are conditional. Any former prisoner who breaches the conditions of his release can be rearrested and made to serve the remainder of his sentence by decision of the Minister of Justice, without any judicial process, or placed under house arrest for the same period.
Amnesty International welcomes the releases and calls on the Tunisian government to uphold the country's obligations under both national law and international human rights law and standards and to lift restriction arbitrarily imposed on former political prisoners.
Amnesty International also calls on the Tunisian authorities to amend or repeal all laws that continue to allow prison sentences for the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression and association or assembly.