Tunisian appeals court lawyer Mohammed Abbou was sentenced to three and a half years imprisonment on 29 April 2005 - two years for physically attacking a female colleague at a conference (though no solid evidence was presented) and 18 months for posting an article on the website Tunisnews on 26 August 2004 comparing torture of political prisoners in Tunisia with abuses by US soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
In fact the convictions were triggered by another article on Tunisnews, on 28 February 2005, just before he was arrested, and headed "Ben Ali - Sharon," in which he compared the Tunisian and Israeli leaders, criticised the invitation to Sharon to attend the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis and sarcastically denounced the corruption of President Ben Ali’s family.
Abbou’s arrest and trials were full of irregularities. He was arrested at night on 1 March 2005 without a warrant and in the absence of any immediate offence committed, and police later tried to cover up for this illegality by getting a warrant backdated to 28 February.
At the trial on 28 April, the defence was only told at the last minute about the main charge of attacking the woman colleague, so was unable to mount a proper defence.
His sentences were upheld on appeal on 10 June after a hearing of only a few minutes. The judge only asked him two "yes or no" questions, preventing him from giving his own version of what happened. His lawyers were not allowed to speak and diplomats and journalists were sent out of the courtroom.
He was transferred on 11 March to prison in Kef, 170 km from the capital, where his wife lives.
He was offered his freedom on 17 June 2005 if he agreed to write to President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali asking for a pardon and apologising for the article on Tunisnews. His response was to go on hunger-strike for nearly a week.