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The appeal was scheduled to take place on August 3, 1999 before the appeals court in Tunis. However, the written judgment issued by the court of first instance, finding the defendants guilty, was not made available until that day to the defense lawyers. Hence, on August 3, the defense lawyers requested and obtained a postponement of the appeal hearing so they could study the judgment and prepare the appeal. The defense on that date also renewed its requests that all the detainees be released on bail.

The appeals process was observed by representatives of several international organizations, including Bernadette Ficq on behalf of the organizations that produced this report. Mohamed Anik was mandated by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network and the Casablanca (Morocco) Bar Association. Laurence Morisset attended the first appeal hearing on August 3 on behalf of the National Federation of Unions of Young Lawyers of France.

Two of the defendants, Ridha Oueslati and Habib Hasni, both sentenced to seventeen months imprisonment by the court of first instance, had already finished serving their sentences by July 23, 1999. However, they remaineddetained because of the appeal filed by the state prosecutor general seeking stiffer sentences.38 The court refused to grant bail to all of the detained defendants and rescheduled the appeal for August 6. This gave the defense less than three days to prepare its case.

As with the trial before the court of first instance, the atmosphere surrounding the August 6 appeal hearing was not conducive to the fair administration of justice. Surveillance of Tunisian human rights activists and foreign observers was plainly visible, as was the presence of plainclothes security force officers in the courtroom. The telephone lines of Radhia Nasraoui and of some of the most outspoken defense lawyers in the case, as well the phones of members of the National Council on Liberties in Tunisia and other human rights activists, were disconnected prior to the trial and were not reestablished until after its conclusion.

Hearing of August 6, 1999

Ten defendants-Noureddine Benticha, Qaïs Oueslati, Ali Jallouli, Taha Sassi, Jalal Bouraoui, Haikal Mannai, Ridha Oueslati, Chedli Hammami, Lotfi Hammami, and Imen Derouiche-were called to answer the questions of the presiding judge, Farouk Gharbi. All of these defendants stated to the court that their dates of arrest as recorded in the police statements were two or more days later than the real arrest dates. All stated to the court that they had been tortured or ill-treated in police custody to force them to sign statements without knowing the content.

As happened in the trial before the court of first instance, the judge not only ignored the repeated requests by the defendants and their defense lawyers that medical examinations and investigations into the allegations of torture be ordered and promptly carried out, but he often interrupted the defendants and lawyers alike when they tried to detail the torture and ill-treatment. When some of the defendants persisted, the judge stressed that this was not the appropriate forum to deal with such matters. When defense lawyer Ayyachi Hammami asked the judge to enter into the record the torture testimony of Taha Sassi, who had been prevented from speaking about it during the trial before the court of first instance, the judge responded that it is not his task to do so and that other institutions existed for that purpose.

The courtroom grew more tense when Imen Derouiche was called to the barre. First the judge asked the clerk to note that lawyer Ayyachi Hammami had taken the floor without permission, even though other members of the Bar Council insisted to the judge that Ayyachi had asked for permission to speak. Imen Derouiche repeated what she had told the court of first instance, notably that she had been arrested earlier than the date recorded on her police statement, that during police custody she had been tortured and injected with a liquid that had caused her serious physical discomfort. She reiterated her request for a medical examination to establish the substance she had been injected with and reminded the court that her rheumatism and generally fragile health had deteriorated as a result of torture. When she then insisted on telling the court that she had been threatened with rape while in police custody, the judge ordered her removal from the courtroom. Her ejection prompted a walkout by the entire defense team.

The judge then proceeded to call to the barre the six other detained defendants-Najib Baccouchi, Rachid Trabelsi, Bourhan Gasmi, Afef Ben Rouina, Fahem Boukaddous, Habib Hasni, and Hinda Aaroua-and finally, Radhia Nasraoui. When all of these defendants refused to answer the court's questions in the absence of their defense lawyers, the judge terminated the hearing. All the requests filed by the defense lawyers (for release on bail, medical examinations, and investigations into reports of torture and falsification of arrest dates for the majority of the defendants) were once again rejected by the court.

The verdict was issued the following day, confirming the judgment of the court of first instance.

38 Article 214 of the code of criminal procedure states that if a verdict is appealed, "there is a stay of execution of the sentence. However, the remand order remains in effect until completion of the sentence handed down in the first instance, and, if the appeal was filed by the State Prosecutor General, until the appeals verdict is rendered."

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