Tunisia frees blogger jailed for defaming army

Demonstrators seen calling for Ayari's release (File photo: AFP)

Tunisian authorities have released a blogger handed six months in prison for defaming the army, after he served more than half his sentence, his brother said Friday.

Yassine Ayari was prosecuted over blogs he wrote alleging financial abuses by army officers and defence ministry officials in a case Human Rights Watch described as “not worthy of the new Tunisia”.

The military prosecution released him late on Thursday after initially rejecting a request by his family to free him.

His brother Moutiaa Ayari told AFP the family had argued that Yassine had already spent three months in jail, had no prior criminal record and should be released for good behaviour.

Ayari was initially tried in absentia in November and sentenced to three years in prison.

In December, he was arrested on his return from Paris and a retrial was ordered.

He was sentenced the following month to one year in jail but a military appeals court later reduced the sentence to six months.

Ayari has alleged that he was punished for blogs critical of Nidaa Tounes, the anti-Islamist party of President Beji Caid Essebsi.

“What happened during my trial was a farce,” Ayari said as he left prison, media reported.

“Everything I said on Facebook is true and I will say it again, and they can jail me again if they wish,” he reportedly said.

Ayari, the son of an army colonel killed in clashes with jihadists in 2011, was an outspoken activist even before the revolution the same year that toppled veteran strongman Zine El Abidine Ben.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:45 - GMT 06:45