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Sunday, 19 August, 2001, 23:17 GMT 00:17 UK
Tunisian woman activist 'attacked'
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By North Africa correspondent
David Bamford

A French human rights organisation says the Tunisian activist, Sihem Bensedrine, has been attacked by police just a week after she was freed from jail.

Ms Bensedrine is reported to have been among a group of activists who were dragged by the hair, beaten with truncheons and kicked on the ground by the police.

State controlled newspapers last week published a series of front-page articles condemning Danielle Mitterrand, the wife of the former French president, after she took up the court case involving Ms Bensedrine.

Details of the reported attack on Sihem Bensedrine and her supporters have been emerging from a Paris-based Tunisian human rights group.

It said police had set upon her as she was on her way to a party to celebrate her recent release from prison after two months in detention.

Several people reportedly needed hospital treatment. There has been no comment from the police.

Vocal critic

Ms Bensedrine is one of the few vocal critics of alleged abuses by the government of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali who chooses to remain in Tunisia.

Her views are expressed in interviews broadcast on foreign-based media or published on her internet website.

Over the past week all the main Tunisian national newspapers, none of which dare criticise President Ben Ali, have contained vehement criticism of Danielle Mitterrand, who has recently spoken up against alleged injustice in Tunisia.

The newspapers have also published dozens of statements from state controlled organisations calling on President Ben Ali to stand for a fourth term in office in forthcoming elections - even though the constitution currently forbids him from doing so.

See also:

30 Apr 01 | Middle East
Tunisia condemned for rights record
30 Jul 00 | Middle East
Tunisia human rights row
02 Feb 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Tunisia
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