Appeals Court Dismisses Tunisian Mathematician’s Case and Orders His Release
February 23, 2016
In the evening of February 5, 2016, Tunisian mathematician Abdelfattah Saied was freed from al-Mornaguia Prison in Tunis after almost seven months in prison. His case was dismissed earlier that day by a court of appeals after all charges against him were dropped.
Mr. Saied is a mathematics teacher and recipient of the 2009 Tunisian Ministry of Education’s “Innovative Teacher Award”, a computer programmer, and a poet. In July 2015, after posting a video on the Internet in which he speculated that security forces may have been linked to the planning of the June 2015 attack on a seaside resort in Sousse in which 38 tourists were killed, Mr. Saied was arrested by counter-terrorism police. Although subsequently charged with “complicity in or facilitation of terrorism” under the 2003 counter-terrorism law, “defaming a public servant,” and “knowingly broadcasting false news to convince others of the existence of a criminal act,” he was found innocent of the defamation charges at trial, and the terror charges were dropped. In November 2015, Mr. Saied was convicted of “knowingly broadcasting false news” and was sentenced to one year in prison. During his imprisonment, he reportedly was denied medical treatment for a preexisting back condition.
The CHR appealed to high-level Tunisian officials for Mr. Saied’s release from prison on the grounds that he was convicted for peacefully expressing his opinion. The rights to freedom of opinion and expression are protected under international human rights law and include the right to publicly criticize officials and institutions.