I wanted to attend the trial, but because I was carrying a camera, I wasn’t allowed inside. I stayed outside, where about a hundred people gathered in front of the courthouse: there were journalists and people who had come to express their support for Nessma TV, as well as salafists who were there to protest against the station.
The first person to get attacked was Abdelhalim Massoudi, one of Nessma TV’s presenters. The men started screaming “infidel” and “atheist” at him, among other insults. About a dozen men closed in on him from all sides. I saw one man hit him in the leg. At that point, several people, myself included, intervened. We grabbed Massoudi and steered him toward the nearest café to get him to safety. He quickly headed home to avoid a lynching.
“I felt so helpless”
I then went back to the courthouse. Suddenly people started yelling “Krichen! Krichen!” They had spotted Zied Krichen, the editor of Al Maghreb newspaper, who had come to attend the trial. They yelled at him: “Infidel! Get out! Death to Krichen!” Hamadi Redessi, a political science professor [who also writes for Krichen’s newspaper], was right by his side. He’s about half as big as Krichen, but he still wanted to protect him.
Krichen was attacked first, from behind; Redessi then tried to grab the attacker, but in return received a very violent head-butt, which clearly destabilised him. This really shocked me. I felt so helpless – I tried to grab one of these men by the collar, but he didn’t even look at me. These men had only one thing in mind – getting to Krichen and his friend.
“The police stayed discreet – too discreet”
Krichen and Redessi headed to the nearest police station, which was less than 100 metres away. What’s shocking is that the police did not intervene earlier – at one point, three policemen began walking by their side to shield them, but they were not at all successful. They could have yelled, or showed their batons or their tear gas canisters – but no, they stayed discreet, too discreet.
Once Krichen and Redessi found refuge in the police station, a man with a megaphone ordered the others: “OK, guys, it’s over, let’s go back to the courthouse.” It was all very organised.
Salafists don’t like the newspaper Al Maghreb, not only because it’s viewed as critical of those in power, but also because last month, they published an investigation into Sejnane, a city north of Tunis where salafists had tried to grab power
. Thanks to this report, the police intervened, and arrested several of their leaders.”