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France/Tunisia7 March 2002

RSF General Secretary sentenced to 1000 euros

Robert Ménard had been charged with manhandling a tourism office employee during a two-day occupation of the Tunisian government permises. Sentenced to 1 000 euros, Ménard will seize the minister of justice and the National Council of Judges

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) secretary-general Robert Ménard denounced today as "disgraceful" the 1,000 euros fine imposed on him today by a Paris court for his part in occupying the Tunisian Tourism Office in Paris last June. "There was no attempt to find out the truth in this matter," he said. "The judge refused to hear witnesses or to watch a video showing that I never touched, much less roughed up anyone. We know very well that the Tunisian government was behind this case." RSF has appealed against the conviction. Ménard had been charged with manhandling a tourism office employee during a two-day occupation of the Tunisian government premises last 28-29 June by Ménard and other RSF members in protest against the arrest of Tunisian journalist Sihem Bensedrine. A tourism official, executive secretary Samia Ayari Mattei, had filed a complaint against Ménard, saying she had to take six days off work sick after the occupation. Ménard said he would seize the opinion of the minister of justice and the National Council of Judges about the refusal of the judge to consider evidence that may have proved him innocent when the judge had a duty to ensure a person’s right to a defence and a fair trial. He said his prosecution was "part of the campaign of slander, insults and defamation against me in the official Tunisian press." In an editorial on 4 February this year, the managing editor of government daily La Presse, Moncef Gouja, called Ménard "a notorious pervert"... "a defender of paedophilia" and "a son of the OAS, whose hands are covered in Algerian blood." The RSF secretary-general appeared before the 28th division of the Paris magistrates’ court on 28 February and the verdict was announced on 7 March, along with a fine of 1,000 euros and a symbolic one euro in damages against him.




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