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Tunisia: ‘I Too Set a Police Station on Fire’

Tunisian netizens launched the social media campaign “I too set a police station on fire”, in solidarity with a number of protesters prosecuted for “burning police stations” and other “acts of vandalism” charges during the 2011 revolution.

Blogger Azyz Amami tweeted on April 20:

I too set a police station on fire: a campaign in support of activists and youth arrested for taking part in the revolution

Indeed, a number of young men are facing judicial prosecution over their protest activities during the 2011 revolution that toppled the 23 year rule of former autocratic President Zeine el Abidin Ben Ali.

'Revolution is not a crime', by facebook page I too set a police station on fire.

‘Revolution is not a crime', by facebook page I too set a police station on fire.

Among them is Saber Mraihi who spent more than one year in prison without trial for allegedly “assaulting a police officer”. Mraihi was arrested one year after the alleged assault took place on the basis of a video in which he reportedly said: “As long as we are here, these dogs [referring to police officers] will not come through.” Last January, a court finally acquitted Mraihi after ordering his release in May 2013.

Meanwhile, in March last year, a Tunisian court sentenced 10 protesters to 10 years imprisonment each for burning a police station in the town of Ajim, on the island of Djerba, in reaction to the fatal shooting of a local resident by a police officer.

According to a list compiled by the Facebook page, I too set a police station on fire, relatives of protesters killed during the revolution are also among those currently prosecuted, including Helmi Cheniti and Isam Amri, whose brothers were killed in Thala, central-west Tunisia, one of the first interior towns to revolt against Ben Ali's regime.

For their supporters, many of these charges are “fabricated” and the burning of police stations back then was a legitimate revolutionary act considering the level of police oppression which led to dozens of deaths and injuries during the late 2010 and early 2011 protests.

'We were the ones who set police stations on fire and you were the ones who killed the martyrs'

‘We were the ones who set police stations on fire and you were the ones who killed the martyrs’

Writing [fr] for the collective blog Nawaat, Henda Chennaoui says the campaign is claiming “the situational legitimacy of the revolutionary act”.

She also described the trials as “iniquitous”:

la liste des procès contre les jeunes de la révolution est longue. Les accusations sont souvent les mêmes ; formation d’un gang, diffamation, trouble à l’ordre public et violence contre la police. Beaucoup d’entre eux ont été arrêté et incarcéré, pendant des semaines, voire des mois, avant leurs procès. Les plus chanceux ont bénéficié d’une médiatisation. Les autres croupissent dans un semblant d’exil, comme le cas de Jihed Mabrouk, blessé de la révolution. Actuellement au Maroc, il a été condamné à trois mois de prison et une amende pour avoir dénoncé un des symboles du RCD dans sa ville, à Mahdia.

The list of trials against the youth of the revolution is long. The charges are often the same; forming a gang, defamation, disturbing public order and violence against police. Many of them were arrested and imprisoned for weeks, even months before the [start] of their trials. The most lucky of them benefited from media coverage. The others are rotting in a semblance of exile, like Jihed Mabrouk, who was injured during the revolution. Currently in Morocco, he was sentenced to three months imprisonment and a fine for denouncing one of the figures of the RCD [the former ruling party of Ben Ali] in his city Mahdia

On Twitter, Sarah Saidi expressed her willingness to burn more police stations:

We are ready to be prosecuted under the counter-terrorism law. I set on fire a police station and I am willing to set more on fire if they burn our dreams

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