Hamma Hammami, an opposition figure and former editor of the banned socialist newspaper Al-Badeel, accuses the Tunisian government of repression and human rights violations.
An official spokesperson for the banned Communist Party of Tunisian Workers, or PCOT, and his wife were beaten by plain-clothes policemen in Carthage airport in Tunis upon his return from Paris.
In Paris, Hamma Hammami, an opposition figure and former editor of the banned socialist newspaper Al-Badeel, had given an interview to Qatar-based Al Jazeera television in which he accused the Tunisian government of repression and human rights violations and explained why his party urged a boycott of the elections.
His wife Radhia Nasraoui, a Tunisian lawyer and human rights activist, said she could not understand why there were so many plain-clothes policemen at the airport when she picked him up.
“I waited in the arrival hall until it emptied out,” she told British daily, the Financial Times. “Suddenly I heard a loud noise and I saw Hamma coming out surrounded by men who were hitting him. They had broken his glasses and blood was coming out of his mouth. They took my phone and kept on beating him and shouting insults until he fell. They hit us until we got in a taxi.”
Hammami and Nasraoui's home in Tunis was surrounded by plain-clothes policemen until Oct. 10, and police at Carthage airport prevented Hammami from traveling to France to attend a conference on the Tunisian elections, claiming that a court had issued an order barring him from foreign travel. On Oct. 20, they prevented Nasraoui from traveling for the same reason, according to Human Rights Watch, or HRW.
“Mr. Hammami and others in the opposition are prepared to use every means possible to appear as martyrs in order to attract the attention of public opinion,” said Zouhair M'daffar, the minister of public administration, who denied the airport attack took place. “In my view, these are false claims aimed at tarnishing the image of the regime.”
However, HRW said repressive acts and tight controls on the election process have tainted the prospects for free and fair presidential and legislative elections in Tunisia. “Tunisian authorities are sadly no more inclined to tolerate criticism during elections than they are between them,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at HRW.
Meanwhile, the Labor Party in Turkey condemned the police violence against Hammami in a written statement on Monday and called for an end to attacks and assassination attempts against the opposition figures in Tunisia. “Those responsible for the violent attack should be immediately found and punished,” the party said. It also urged widespread support to Hammami’s and Tunisians' democracy struggle.