Tunisian blogger Sofiane Shurabi, a scathing critic of deposed president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, was arrested on Sunday for drinking alcohol in public during Ramadan with two friends, police and a lawyer said.
Lawyer Anis Ezzine told AFP that Shurabi and a journalist friend were arrested on the beach at El Mansoura in the northeast on Sunday morning for “being drunk in a public place, disturbance of the peace and unacceptable behaviour.”
Interior ministry spokesman Khaled Tarouch said a young woman was arrested with them and that all three had admitted the charges. Drinking alcohol in public is severely frowned upon during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
“They admitted it,” Tarouch told the radio station Express-FM.
“After consultation with the ministry, the three were detained for unacceptable behaviour and drinking alcohol in public.”
Ezzine said they could face up to seven months in prison.
Earlier, Shurabi wrote on his Facebook page, without giving details, that he had been arrested at the police station at Menzel Temime.
Shurabi, who works for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, was popular for his scathing blogs targeting the regime of Ben Ali that was toppled in January 2011.
Like several other civil society members, Shurabi has expressed fear of a creeping Islamisation in Tunisia, where the government is dominated by the Islamist party Al-Nahda, allied with two centre-left movements.
Another lawyer, Leila Ben Debba, hinted on Sunday that there may be a political dimension to the blogger’s arrest.
“I do not exclude that his arrest was linked to his appeal on Facebook to demonstrate tonight” against the government’s policies, she told Express-FM.
A call for a protest in central Tunis is circulating on the Internet, despite an interior ministry warning that such a gathering has not been authorised.
Photo of tourists at El Mansoura beach in Tunisia by Simon Blackley via Flickr