Tunisian bar association accuses policemen of torturing a lawyer during detention

By Thomson Reuters May 15, 2024 | 8:45 PM

TUNIS (Reuters) – Tunisian lawyer Mahdi Zagrouba was tortured by police officers after being arrested on Monday, lawyers and a human rights organisation said on Wednesday after he collapsed in court and was taken to a hospital.

The Interior Ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Lawyer Souad Boker said Zagrouba appeared on Wednesday before the investigating judge in a exhausted state, adding that “he mentioned the names of the policemen who tortured him before he suffered a collapse and coma”.

Witnesses and lawyers said that Zagrouba was taken to the hospital in an ambulance.

TAP state news agency quoted Zarouba’s attorney, Boubaker Ben Thabet, as saying Zagrouba had been subjected to “systematic torture” during his detention.

Toumi Ben Farhat, another lawyer representing Zagrouba, said his colleague “was subjected to extremely severe torture”.

Tunisian police stormed the bar association’s headquarters on Monday for the second time in two days and arrested Zagrouba, who has criticised the president, after detaining Sonia Dahmani, another lawyer, during the weekend.

Bassam Trifi, the head of the Tunisian League for Human Rights, said that “Zagrouba was subjected to brutal torture, and I personally witnessed the torture on his body”.

Without referring to the allegations, President Kais Saied said in a statement after a meeting with Minister of Justice Laila Jafel that the state is responsible for guaranteeing every prisoner the right to treatment that preserves his dignity.

The Bar Association said in a statement late on Wednesday that torture deserves criminal prosecution, and that it held the Ministry of Interior officers responsible. It said a strike was planned for Thursday.

Saied took office after free elections in 2019, but two years later he shut down the elected parliament and has ruled by decree.

The European Union‮ ‬said on Tuesday it was concerned about the wave of imprisonment of many civil society figures, journalists and political activists, and demanded clarifications from Tunisia.

(Reporting By Tunisian newsroom. Editing by Gerry Doyle)