Tunisia detained Salafists risk death: Lawyers ring alarm bells
TUNIS - Around 200 Islamists detained in Tunisia are on hunger strike and some are now in grave danger, their lawyers said on Monday, days after two Islamists who had refused food for nearly two months died.
"The situation is catastrophic," Mehdi Zagrouba said, saying that around 200 detainees were involved in the action.
Three hunger strikers were hospitalised at the weekend, one of whom needed to have his stomach operated on, before being returned to prison.
"Other people will die: the situation of the detainees is really catastrophic," said another lawyer, Seif Eddine Makhlouf, speaking on radio Mosaique FM.
The justice ministry could not immediately be reached for comment on the latest information, after confirming on Saturday that 56 Tunisian prisoners were on hunger strike, with some having gone without food for more than a month.
It had said three prisoners were in a "worrying" condition.
Activists are demanding their release, but the justice ministry has said it cannot free them, with any such decision to be taken by those judges responsible for their each individual case.
Zagrouba said the detainees on hunger strike had all been arrested in 2011 and 2012 over a wave of attacks blamed on Tunisia's hardline Salafists that has rocked the country since last year's revolution.
He said the targets of those attacks included the 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.
Two Islamists, including Mohammed Bakhti, a prominent figure in Tunisia's Salafist movement, died last week after refusing food since late September, days after their arrest in connection with the embassy attack.