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Journalist Ben Brik to await verdict in jail, court says
A Tunisian court ordered Taoufik Ben Brik, a journalist and vocal critic of President Zine El Abidine Ben, to remain in detention until a January 30 verdict. Ben Brik has maintained the assault charges against him are politically motivated.
AFP - A Tunisian journalist and vocal critic of President Zine El Abidine Ben appealed Saturday against a six-month jail term for assaulting a woman, saying he had been framed by the state.
Taoufik Ben Brik, 49, protested his innocence throughout his trial last year, arguing he was the victim of a set-up by police because of his criticism of Ben Ali, elected in October for a fifth term after two decades in power.
The prosecution on Saturday urged the appeals court for a stiffer sentence than the one handed down by a Tunis court in November, but Ben Brik's lawyers sought his release on the ground that the case was trumped up.
His lawyers said there were several holes in the case and that their client's signature had been forged.
The court ordered that he remain in detention until its verdict, due on January 30.
Ben Brik has said he was arrested two hours after "the publication of an imaginary interview" with the president.
"I am the victim and not the accused in this affair which has been entirely set up by the political police," Ben Brik said at his November trial in Tunis.
He was arrested on October 29 and charged with physically assaulting a 28-year-old businesswoman.
Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF - Reporters Without Borders) declared Ben Brik a political prisoner and urged foreign governments to "stop protecting the regime".
France has also expressed regret at Ben Brik's imprisonment, saying it highlighted the difficulties hampering journalists and human rights defenders in Tunisia.
RSF recalled that Ben Brik suffers from Cushing's syndrome, a disease that threatens the immune system and requires medical monitoring and a clean and warm environment.