Four men, believed to be plain-clothed police, seized independent journalist Slim Boukdhir near his home in Tunis yesterday evening (Wednesday 28 October), beating him, stripping him of his clothes, ID, money and phones and drawing a knife while threatening to kill him “next time”.
The kidnapping and assault occurred two hours after Boukhdhir was interviewed by the BBC, where he discussed President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s internationally derided election victory on Sunday and a banned book by two French journalists on Ben Ali’s wife and her rising influence in the country.
According to reports from Index on Censorship’s sources in Tunisia, Boukhdhir was dumped outside the city’s Belvedere Park, where he was helped by a passer-by who put him in a taxi. From there he took refuge at the home of journalist Neziha Rejiba. “He was naked and barefoot and bruised all over his body when I opened the door for him,” said Rejiba, editor of the banned web site Kalima.
After Sunday’s vote, Ben Ali and pro-state local media listed Boukhdhir among a “tiny minority” of Tunisians accused of “treason” for communicating with foreign media and casting doubt on Ben Ali’s victory in which he took 89.6 percent of the vote, after two decades in power. The US government has expressed concern about the transparency and credibility of the elections.
Boukdhir was seized in similar circumstances in September 2008, though not beaten or stripped, after writing an article about then US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s brief visit to Tunisia and her critical remarks about the human rights situation there. Again his assailants were thought to be plain-clothes police.