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Arabic press review: Tunisian student jailed over Facebook post critical of president

Meanwhile, UNRWA suspends services at largest Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan after workers strike, and Algeria's foreign minister says his country is 'seeking to reunite the Arabs' to support Palestinian rights
tunisia-student-jailed-facebook-nov-2021
A social media campaign has been launched calling for release of Tunisian student Ali Saidi, who was arrested over a Facebook post critical of President Kais Saied (Facebook)

Young Tunisian jailed over Facebook post

Tunisian student Ali Saidi has been jailed due to a Facebook post that was deemed "offensive to President Kais Saied", al-Araby al-Jadid newspaper reported.

The incident sparked a campaign on social media calling for his release and prompted renewed criticism of the president's crackdown on free speech after his 25 July power grab in which he suspended parliament, sacked the prime minister, and assumed vast judicial and legislative powers that allow him to rule by decree. 

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His decision has also been followed by a crackdown on opponents of his move, including MPs and journalists.

“A university student with the rank of engineer is imprisoned for a post about the president of the republic, this is a farce," lawyer and human rights activist Al-Habib bin Saidhum wrote, commenting on the arrest. He added that he has volunteered to set up a team of lawyers to defend Saidi in court.

"The investigations started with a Facebook post, then ended up being about suspicion of religious extremism. They asked him about his beard, then when he replied that it is a matter of personal freedom, they accused him of religious extremism," Saidhum added.

Meanwhile, Nader Duo, an activist, said: “They see in you a powerless citizen to throw you behind bars, only because you expressed your opinion about those with whom you disagree, regardless of their position, and you have every freedom in that as long as we live in a free country."

UNRWA operations suspended at Jordan camp

Services provided by the UN Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA, have been suspended at al-Baqaa camp, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan, after workers launched a strike on Monday morning.

Riad Zigan, president of the UNRWA Workers’ Union, said the strike covered the most vital facilities at the camp, which is home to more than 120,000 people - including 16 schools, two health centres, an environmental health office, the camp manager’s office, and a supply distribution centre.

Zigan told al-Ghad newspaper that employees are demanding the abolition of unpaid leave, support to refugees and agency workers, and other demands related to employment rights. 

"The strike was not a goal for us as employees, but a means of obtaining our rights," Zigan said, attributing the strike and its consequences to UNRWA's administration.

In a visit to the camp by Al-Ghad newspaper, several residents expressed fear that the crisis and the strike would drag on for a long time and disrupt services for those in need, particularly in schools and health centres.

Algeria renews support for Palestine

Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra said that Algeria is committed to its historic role based on the principle of supporting oppressed peoples, in particular the Palestinian people, according to an exclusive interview by Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper in London.

“The Palestinian issue is an integral part of the Algerian people’s sentiments and genuine commitment to the right of peoples to get rid of colonialism and foreign occupation," the minister said.

Lamamra added that his country is "seeking to reunite the Arabs at the next summit to reach a common position on supporting the rights of the Palestinian people".

He pointed out that Algeria's position will be to urge Arab countries to express commitment to the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, "without interfering in the internal affairs of countries that have chosen normalisation". 

*Arabic press review is a digest of news reports not independently verified as accurate by Middle East Eye.