TUNIS, Nov 26, 2012 (AFP) -
TUNIS, Nov 26, 2012 (AFP) –
Dozens of Tunisian Islamist prisoners have ended an almost two-week hunger strike, a justice ministry official told AFP on Monday, but a lawyer swiftly denied the report.
“I can confirm that the hunger strike has ended,” said Fadhel Saihi, apart from one prisoner who had to be taken to hospital because of his condition.
But Abdelbasset Ben Mbarek, a lawyer for one of the inmates, denied they had ended their strike, telling AFP that the justice ministry only wanted to “mislead the public.”
Neither of Monday’s claims could be verified by an independent source.
Up to 200 prisoners have refused to eat, most of them since mid-November when two fellow inmates died from their own two-month hunger strike.
Most of the strikers were arrested in connection with a wave of attacks blamed on Tunisia’s hardline Salafists that has rocked the country since its revolution of January 2011.
Saihi said that joint efforts by the justice ministry, the prisoners’ lawyers and civil society groups helped end the strike. “The judiciary has promised to bring forward their trials,” he said.
The justice ministry also said last week that a large number of prisoners had ended their hunger strike, in a report likewise denied by lawyers.
Saihi said that only one prisoner still refused to eat — Iyed Boukadida, who was arrested on suspicion of taking part in clashes with security forces in the east of the country in February that killed two policemen.
Around 220 Salafist Islamists have been arrested in 2011 and 2012 over numerous attacks.
The targets included Nessma TV channel, an art exhibition in a Tunis suburb and the US embassy, which was stormed by Islamists on September 14 in violence that left four people dead.
The hunger strikers say they are the victims of an unjustified crackdown on Salafists, who adhere to an ultra-Orthodox version of Sunni Islam.