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Human rights activists faced restrictions ranging from no coverage of their activism in the government- controlled press and banned gatherings to job dismissal and judicial proceedings with the threat of imprisonment. Surveillance extended to phone tapping, disconnecting phone lines, and interception of mail and faxes. By the end of the year, the government had restored the passports of most prominent activists, but maintained travel restrictions on some.

The experience of CNLT spokesman Moncef Marzouki was typical. In November 1999, following publication of several communiqués by the CNLT, the authorities brought him before an investigating judge to answer charges that included maintaining an "unrecognized" association and "spreading false information aiming to disturb the public order." In May, his passport was returned to him and his phone line restored after a four year interruption, but in July, following a short trip to Paris and Washington, he was dismissed from his post as professor of community medicine at the University of Sousse on grounds that he had traveled without permission. On October 19, The authorities prevented him from leaving Tunis airport to attend a meeting in Spain.

Marzouki's university dismissal followed by one day a speech by President Ben Ali to cadres of the ruling RCD party in which he threatened to prosecute unnamed citizens whose criticisms of Tunisia while abroad "amount[ed] to treason." In an unmistakable reference to the CNLT, Ben Ali said, "It is out of the question that in the name of public liberties illegal structures are set up claiming for themselves the status of associations, organizations, or committees." The CNLT continued to issue strongly-worded critiques of human rights abuses despite the government's steadfast rejection of its application for legal recognition. In October 1999, it published a report on prison conditions and in March 2000, a detailed overview of human rights violations in the country.

The Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH), the Young Lawyers' Association, and the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women (AFTD), all legally recognized, also spoke out against rights violations despite government pressure and obstacles to holding public meetings.

In April, police prevented the Tunisian section of Amnesty International (AI) from holding a public meeting on the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia. Security officers prevented Mahmoud Ben Romdhane, chair of the organization's international board, and other members and guests, including foreign diplomats, from approaching the organization's Tunis office, and lawyer Hachemi Jegham, former president of AI's Tunisia section, was physically dragged from the building. In July, Donatella Rovera and Hassina Giraud from AI and Patrick Baudouin from the FIDH were barred from entering the country at Tunis-Carthage airport.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2000

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