On Tuesday, September 6, a group of more than 12 plainclothes officers from Tunisia’s “anti-terror” squad raided the house of journalist and anti-imperialist, leftist political organizer Ghassen Ben Khelifa, editor of the online media site Inihyez and head of the Media Workshop for Economic and Social Rights Association. The officers conducted a search, seizing his computers and a mobile phone. After his kidnapping, Ben Khelifa was transferred to an unknown destination. No reasons were given for his arrest and no charges have been made. He is now being held under a five-day detention order, subject ot renewal. He also also been denied his right under Tunisian law to be accompanied by lawyers during interrogation.
Ben Khelifa is a tireless revolutionary, organizing together with the oppressed and popular classes in Tunisia, in the region and globally- supporting the struggles of small Tunisian farmers and the unemployed, as well as fighting against normalization and in solidarity with Palestine liberation. The Tunisian Union of Journalists has noted that this arrest comes amid the context of ongoing campaigns of intimidation and harassment against journalists and activists under the “anti-terror” pretext.
In March 2011, the NLG organized a solidarity delegation to Tunisia to demonstrate its support for the 2010-2011 popular revolt and its calls for the redistribution of wealth, social justice and national sovereignty and to expose the destructive role of US/Western imperialism. Ben Khelifa’s journalism, analysis and organizing represents a continuation of that revolutionary process, which his arrest and detention seek to undermine.
The IC of the NLG, an organization of progressive lawyers, law students and legal workers therefore strongly condemnsthe police kidnapping, detention and intimidation of Ben Khelifa’s family. Not only has the Tunisian state violated Ben Khelifa’s basic human rights, in particular the freedom of expression and due process, under the guise of fighting “terrorism”, but it also makes a mockery of the Tunisian popular struggle for socioeconomic justice, liberation and sovereignty.
The International Committee of the NLG, a US-based organization, is particularly concerned that Tunisia’s “anti-terror” institutions, which have been heavily influenced and funded by the US government, are at the heart of this injustice. The US-led “war on terror” has been responsible for extensive human rights violations, violence, destruction, and dispossession in the region, all in an effort to maintain US unipolarity and the capital accumulation it enables. Ben Khelifa’s arrest is a reminder that it is incumbent upon the anti-imperialist left to continue to demand a complete end to the “war on terror” and to the kinds of destructive relations and dynamics it has unleashed in Africa and West Asia in particular. We are part of the movement fighting to abolish all forms of imperialist intervention in the region.
We call on the Tunisian authorities to immediately release Ben Khelifa, drop the unjustified prosecution against him and grant him complete freedom.