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Moncef Marzouki 
Formerly Imprisoned, Moncef Marzouki, Elected President of Tunisia
January 13, 2012

On December 12, 2011, Tunisia’s Constitutional Assembly elected Moncef Marzouki, a former CHR case, president of the country. Dr. Marzouki, founder of the Congress for the Republic party, will serve for one year while the country rewrites its constitution and prepares for new elections.

Moncef Marzouki, a former professor of public health at Sousse University and the University of Bobigny in Paris, repeatedly was harassed by Tunisian authorities for his peaceful criticism of then President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s human rights record. On December 30, 2000, following a one-day trial that did not meet international fair trial standards, Dr. Marzouki was sentenced to eight months in prison for belonging to an illegal organization, (the Tunisian League for Human Rights, of which he had been president), and an additional four months for allegedly spreading false information. On September 29, 2001, the Court of Appeal of Tunis suspended his sentence and lifted a ban on his travel. Subsequently, Dr. Marzouki flew to France where he remained in exile until the overthrow of President Ben Ali in January 2011.
The CHR intervened in behalf of Dr. Marzouki on numerous occasions over a nine-year period.  In that time, CHR correspondents and national academies that are members of the H.R. Network wrote nearly 300 letters of appeal to the Tunisian authorities in his behalf. In 1996, during the NAS annual meeting, Dr. Marzouki spoke at the CHR's 20th anniversary symposium. He thanked the NAS, NAE, and IOM, and the CHR for their work and, after describing the many obstacles that Tunisians continued to face as they confronted human rights abuses, he urged resilience: I like to repeat to myself, especially some days when all systems do not go, that it is probably foolish to try to change the world, but it is surely criminal not to try.  The future is to keep trying, again and again. We thank the many CHR correspondents and H.R. Network participants who wrote letters of appeal in Dr. Marzouki’s behalf.