Letter on the arrest, detention and prosecution of Abderrazak Kilani
In a joint letter Lawyers for Lawyers, the Law Society of England and Wales, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, and Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada express grave concern about the arrest, detention and prosecution before a military tribunal of Abderrazak Kilani, a lawyer and former President of The Law Society of Tunisia from 2010 until 2012, as well as a former ambassador of Tunisia to the UN in Geneva.
On 2 January 2022, Mr. Kilani was contacted by the spouse of Mr. Noureddine Bhiri, asking for legal representation by Mr. Kilani for her husband. Mr. Bhiri is a lawyer, former Minister of Justice, and opposition politician. She told Mr. Kilani that her husband had been abducted by plainclothes police officers in front of their house on 31 December 2021. He had been held at an undisclosed location for two days and was subsequently admitted to Habib Bougatfa hospital in Bizerte with a deteriorated health condition. We were informed that, only at that stage, was he issued with an order for “house arrest”, without having been charged with any offence.
Mr. Bhiri’s spouse asked Mr. Kilani to accompany her to the hospital. Mr. Kilani asked police officers guarding Mr. Bhiri to meet with his client. That request was conveyed by the police to the Minister of the Interior, who denied it. Only Mr. Bhiri’s wife and the President of the Bar Council were permitted to meet with Mr. Bhiri. Mr. Kilani then told the security officers at the hospital that the Tunisian Constitution establishes that security forces should be neutral and serve the republic rather than any particular interest.
On 3 January 2022, the Minister of the Interior held a press conference where he said that “a respectable person had [incited the police and the public]” referring to a recording of Mr. Kilani’s encounter with the police at the hospital that was shared on social media. Mr. Kilani was subsequently investigated on charges of incitement to disobedience, as well as “belonging to a group likely to disturb public order”, “insulting public officials”, and “inciting [police officials] by violence, assault, threats, or fraudulent practices to cease performing their individual or collective duties”.
On 2 March 2022, a hearing took place before the military tribunal of Tunis during which Mr. Kilani’s pre-trial detention was ordered. He was sent to Mornaguia prison in Tunis where he remained in detention for approximately three weeks. On 21 March 2022, the investigating judge of the military tribunal of Tunis issued an order for his release and established the date of the next hearing before the military tribunal, which will take place on 12 May 2022. During this hearing, the merits of the charges against Mr. Kilani will be addressed.
We believe that Mr. Kilani’s arrest, detention, and prosecution are politically motivated and related to Mr. Kilani’s alleged involvement with the movement “Citizens against the Coup” and the fact that his client is, in addition to being a lawyer, an opposition politician.
In our joint letter we call upon the Tunisian authorities to vacate the charges against Mr Kilani and discontinue any proceedings against him, ynsure compliance with Tunisia’s international legal obligations, specifically the right to a fair trial (and lack of military jurisdiction over civilians), as well as the right to freedom of expression; and, ensure that all lawyers in Tunisia can practice their profession without undue interference in compliance with international standards on the independence of the legal profession.
Click here to read the full letter.
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