(RSF/IFEX) - In a letter to Minister of the Interior Abdallah Kallel, RSF protested the assault on Sihem Bensedrine, director of the online weekly "Kalima" (hosted by RSF at www.kalimatunisie.com), Omar Mestiri and Mohammed Bechri, both human rights activists, by police officers in Tunis. RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard asked the minister "to quickly punish the police officers responsible for this incident, which is all the more worrisome when one considers that, on the same day, Sihem Bensedrine received a death threat." Ménard added: "The harassment of human rights activists has become intolerable, especially since the late November closure of the Tunisian League of Human Rights."
According to information collected by RSF, on 15 December 2000, in the afternoon, plainclothes police officers assaulted Bensedrine, director of the weekly "Kalima", Mestiri, secretary-general of the National Committee for Rights in Tunisia (Comité national pour les libertés en Tunisie, CNLT) and Bechri, coordinator of the National Committee for the Defence of Moncef Marzouki, as they were going to the Ministry of Health to give the minister a petition protesting Marzouki's improper dismissal from the Sousse Faculty of Medecine. Several police officers beat Bensedrine and Bechri and forced them to leave. At the same time, Mestiri was thrown to the ground and repeatedly beaten by other police officers, who then drove him some sixty kilometres from Tunis and left him in the countryside. A few hours before the attack, Bensedrine found that her car had been searched. She found a knife in the back seat of her car, which she believes was left as a death threat.