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Quite aside from the question of whether the emergency court ruled to evict the steering committee on the merits of the arguments made before it, the immediate and zealous enforcement of the injunction betrays the government's interest in the case. In contrast to the more leisurely pace at which injunctions are usually executed in Tunisia, a bailiff arrived at the LTDH office on November 27 within hours of the emergency court ruling, accompanied by the district police station chief and a large contingent of policemen. They ordered the immediate eviction of LTDH members present. To this date, the entrance to the office is under police surveillance and the keys are in the hands of the court-appointed administrator. According to steering committee members, this is the first time ever that a court in Tunisia has appointed an administrator to oversee an independent association, a procedure that is normally imposed only in commercial disputes.

The government enforced the temporary freeze in additional ways. First, it took legal action against League President Trifi and First Vice President Jourchi when the committee continued to issue communiqués following the interim court order-subsequently appealed-that it suspend all activities. The state prosecutor first summoned Jourchi for a December 25 hearing, in connection with a December 11 LTDH communiqué he had signed describing recent incidents of harassment of human rights defenders. At the hearing Jourchi refused to answer questions when his request to be assisted by his lawyers was denied. He was then questioned by an investigating judge (juge d'instruction) on January 2 and 18 on charges of failure to obey a judicial order (Article 315 of the Penal Code) and disseminating "false" information capable of disturbing "the public order" (Article 49 of the Press Code). The first offense carries a maximum prison sentence of fifteen days; the second, of three years.

Trifi's turn was next. After signing most of the communiqués issued by the steering committee since its election, he was summoned for questioning by the state prosecutor on February 23 regarding a communiqué issued on February 12, criticizing the verdict issued earlier that day nullifying the general assembly and its elections. The communiqué attacked the trial as "unjust" and the verdict as proof of "the determination of the authorities to liquidate the LTDH." The steering committee would "pursue the mission for which it had been elected," the communiqué declared. Before the state prosecutor, Trifi, like Jourchi two months earlier, refused to answer questions when his request to be assisted by his lawyers was denied. Trifi then appeared on March 3 before an investigating judge, who notified him that he was being investigated on the same charges as Vice President Jourchi: disseminating "false" information capable of disturbing "the public order" and failing to obey a judicial order. At the next hearing, on March 10, Trifi came accompanied by some fifty lawyers who had joined the defense team. When the judge refused to transfer the hearing to a chamber large enough to accommodate all of them, Trifi's lawyers walked out in protest. Trifi then refused to respond to questions in the absence of his lawyers, and requested a postponement. The judge denied this request. As this report went to press, there had been no further developments in the cases against Trifi and Jourchi.

While the emergency injunction supposedly freezes only the activities of the national steering committee, police have on numerous occasions been deployed in large numbers to thwart attempted gatherings of LTDH at every level, including the national council, the local sections, and meetings of any kind at the law offices of LTDH President Trifi and his partner Mohamed Jmour, the steering committee's lead attorney. Police have also prevented meetings organized by other organizations in support of the LTDH steering committee. For example:

· On December 3, police prevented the LTDH National Council from holding a meeting at the headquarters of the section in Bizerte, sixty kilometers north of Tunis. Police were stationed along the road to that city and followed cars carrying LTDH members. Police surrounded the office of the LTDH section in Bizerte and prevented those who had come from assembling there. When they tried to move the meeting to a local hotel police dispersed them again. Later that day the council tried to convene at the Tunis home of new LTDH Vice President Souhayr Belhassen, but police turned back all persons approaching it.34

· On December 8, authorities prevented a gathering co-sponsored by the LTDH section in Sousse, Amnesty International's Tunisian section and the Association of Young Lawyers.

· On January 28, the Sfax section of the LTDH attempted to hold a ceremony commemorating LTDH activist Fadhel Ghedamsi forty days after his death. (Ghedamsi, a Tunis lawyer, had been re-elected to the new LTDH steering committee but was then defeated by Trifi in the vote for president.) Police surrounded the LTDH office and prevented entry to persons who were not members or officers of the local section.

· On February 18, police attempted to prevent another gathering at the Sfax section office, at which LTDH attorney Mohamed Jmour was scheduled to discuss the lawsuit against the League. League officials immediately protested to the Ministry of Interior, and the police withdrew, allowing the meeting to take place.

· Police have increased their surveillance of the downtown Tunis law office of Mokhtar Trifi, and on more than one occasion in 2001 prevented LTDH steering committee members and other rights activists from reaching his office. For example, on February 6, police stationed outside the building denied access to Anouar Kousri, a LTDH vice president and a prominent human rights lawyer in Bizerte, and Adel Arfaoui, a steering committee member, as well as to Salah Hamzaoui and Brahim Alloui.

· Police intensified their harassment on March 15 and 16 of Anouar Kousri in Bizerte. Kousri detailed in a statement he issued on March 16 the increase in the number and aggressiveness of the plainclothes police assigned to follow him:

For a long time I have been harassed. My law office is always under close police surveillance, which causes me to lose a lot of clients and is slowly strangling me financially. My home is also under close police surveillance, my neighbors are terrified, and so is my family, especially my three daughters, who have been living a nightmare for quite some time. I do not feel safe these days, especially since I have been handling very sensitive cases such as the one last Tuesday [March 13] concerning Ridha Jeddi, who died at a police station in Menzel Bourguiba at the end of last September, a case that has been taken on by the LTDH.35

Police have blocked gatherings by other groups called in solidarity with the LTDH and its new steering committee:

· On December 10, police blocked an award ceremony to honor the LTDH organized at the Tunis home of a former head of the Bar Council, Mohamed Chakroun. When participants attempted to gather instead at the home of Sihem Ben Sedrine and Omar Mestiri, police blocked entry there as well. The group then moved to the restaurant at the downtown Abou Nawas Mechtel hotel, but police instructed the hotel staff not to serve them, according to a statement signed by Dr. Héla Abdeljaoued of the LTDH and six other women.

· On January 29, a solidarity meeting organized by the Association of Democratic Women was blocked by police who stationed themselves outside the association's office in downtown Tunis and prevented access. A few persons who insisted eventually were allowed entry, while others were shoved or beaten by the police for persisting.

34 LTDH communiqué, December 3, 2000.

35 Reprinted in the online digest Tunis News, issue dated March 16, 2001. Available: [April 11, 2001]

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