Open Letter

10 July 2010 – Journalist Fahem Boukaddous adresses an open letter to the public from his hospital bed:

You are all no doubt aware of what I went through this past week. Indeed, though I suffered an acute asthmatic attack that necessitated sending me to the Farhat Hached Teaching Hospital in Sousse from 3 July, the Gafsa Court of Appeals insisted on sentencing me to a four-year prison term. It took no notice of the hospitalization certificate presented to it by my lawyer, thus contravening one of the basic principles of a fair trial.

In parallel, a number of police officers have been laying siege to my room in the pneumonic section of the aforementioned hospital, made many attempts to have me discharged by the medical staff, and are even now stalking me so that they can throw me in jail as soon as I leave the hospital.

I am making this appeal to public and international opinion, and first and foremost the journalistic profession, of which I am proud to be a member, to make them aware of my situation fraught with real danger. Indeed, it is no secret that I have been suffering from acute asthma for over twenty years, and am now at an advanced stage of the illness, whose repeated attacks have exhausted my body and reduced its capacity for resistance.

My body is now dependent on urgent interventions and drug taking that would hardly be available for me in jail. Indeed, the infection now affecting both my lungs and the obstruction of my airways inevitably leads to a low rate of oxygen in the brain that makes me pass out and requires urgent artificial respiration, which indeed has ever saved me from certain death. Throwing me in a prison cell, as I well know, will only increase my suffering and further damage my health.

I experienced this situation in the past, and fully know that prison means overcrowding, filth, humidity, a great number of smokers, and breathing difficulty (for all), particularly in the scorching heat of summer. In addition any health assistance I may require will depend on the prison administration, not to mention its slowness, ineffectiveness and uselessness in most cases. Putting me in this position in my present state of health is tantamount to a death sentence.

As I make this appeal to you, I hold Tunisian authorities fully accountable for the deterioration that will inevitably be cause to my health, for leaving the hospital to go to jail just means death to me.

When I chose to be a journalist, I chose the side of free, decent and truthful speech, fully aware of the price to be paid by those who make that choice, and I will not be less daring or courageous than my predecessors, nor daunted by unjust sentences, even at the cost of my own life. Let my life be the price to be paid for freedom and democracy.

Signed,

Journalist Fahem Boukaddous
Correspondent for the Tunisian satellite television station Al-Hiwar al-Tunisi and Al Badeel Website, currently being treated at Farhat Hached Teaching Hospital in Sousse, Tunisia.

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