Journalist Ben Brick Has Medical Tests, Waits for Chirac Meeting
The hunger-striking Tunisian journalist Taoufik Ben Brick said from his hospital bed in Paris Friday that if he failed to secure a meeting with President Jacques Chirac he would move on to Algeria, Morocco or Egypt.
Ben Brick, who flew to France Thursday after the Tunisian government dropped charges against him and returned his passport, reiterated his vow to continue his month-long protest until his brother Jelal was released from prison in Tunisia.
The journalist, who began his protest to focus attention on harassment by the Tunis government, underwent tests at Paris' Salpetriere hospital Friday.
A medical bulletin on his condition was expected to be published later in the day.
Asked how he felt, the journalist said: "I no longer have policemen at my heels. They are looking after me well in hospital, but I am homesick."
He said he hoped a meeting with Chirac could be arranged within a week, but said that if the French president refused to see him he would move on to Algeria, Morocco or Egypt before returning to Tunisia.
In Tunis, Jelal -- imprisoned on Wednesday for three months for "aggression against a police officer" -- was continuing a hunger strike in prison in solidarity with his brother, one of his lawyers said Friday.
The French government now finds itself in a delicate position.
While not wishing to disavow Ben Brick's call for greater freedoms in Tunisia, Paris does not wish to break with President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, a traditional ally that France wants to nudge rather than shove into political reform.
French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine took a fine diplomatic line when he said Ben Brick had been granted a visa "not so that he can continue his struggle in France," but to calm an increasingly tense stand-off.
In Tunisia, the government newspaper La Presse, on Friday threw doubt on the authenticity of Taoufik Ben Brick's hunger strike in a scathing editorial, noting that he had the strength to appear at a press conferences on his arrival in Paris.
"In scientific terms, can someone really observe a hunger strike for a month, and still carry themselves and behave as this unique hunger striker has done?" said an editorial.
The journalist dismissed the government's claims, saying Tunis was well aware of his state of health -- PARIS (AFP).
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