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Tunisian TV boss hands himself in after arrest warrant issued
Sami Fehri, the head of a Tunisian TV channel that aired a controversial satirical puppet show, turned himself in to his country’s judicial authorities Thursday. He claimed the arrest warrant against him was in retaliation for his show.
AFP - Sami Fehri, the head of TV channel Ettounsiya which aired a controversial satirical show, turned himself in to the Tunisian attorney general's office on Thursday under an arrest warrant, his lawyer told AFP.
"Sami just went to the attorney general," said Sonia Dahmani without giving details.
On August 24, Tunisian authorities ordered the detention of Fehri in an alleged corruption case dating back to the era of ousted president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.
Fehri claims the decision to arrest him was made in retaliation for a satirical puppet show focused on members of the Tunisian government and its ruling Ennahda party. The show was abruptly pulled off air earlier this month.
The authorities say they want to "clean up" the system of accomplices of the fallen regime, like Fehri who was an associate of Belhassen Trabelsi, brother of Ben Ali. Trabelsi has fled to Canada.
In a video statement released during the night, Fehri said he was going to the attorney general to allege unlawful prosecution and an attack on freedom of expression.
"Freedom of expression with which we live since January 14 (2011, the day Ben Ali fled Tunisia) is threatened," said Fehri who had made a name for himself under the former regime for producing successful entertainment programmes.
Fehri last week told Express FM radio he would not fight the warrant.
"A huge machine has crushed us to death," he said of the Islamist-led Tunisian government. "I would never have imagined it could happen like that. They have crossed every red line."
The warrant against him came days after protests by Tunisian journalists accusing the government of seeking to curtail press freedom and take control of the country's media.
Official news agency TAP has said Fehri was being charged with "illegal use of Tunisian state television resources" during the rule of Ben Ali.
The National Union of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT) accuses the authorities of seeking to control the country's media.