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Tunisian Hunger-Striker Hospitalized

April 24, 2000

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) _ A Tunisian journalist who has been on hunger strike for three weeks to protest the confiscation of his passport was rushed to the hospital Monday, a rights group said.

Taoufik Ben Brik was admitted to a hospital in the capital Tunis on Monday morning, Nadia Hakimi of the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women said.

Ben Brik, who started his hunger strike on April 3, works for the French language daily La Croix and news agencies Infosud and Syfia.

He is under investigation on charges of ``diffusing false information liable to incite public disorder″ and ``defamation of the authorities″ over articles published in foreign papers. He has not yet been charged, but the charges carry a maximum sentence of six years in prison.

His passport was confiscated in April last year.

International organizations have criticized Tunisia’s government for a recent spate of arrests of activists and journalists.

Earlier this month, Amnesty International wrote to President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to protest the ``increasing harassment to which Tunisian human rights defenders have been subjected.″

On Sunday, media advocacy group ``Reporters Without Borders″ said Ben Brik’s life was in danger after losing 39 pounds. The group said it had written to Ben Ali to urge him to return the journalist’s passport.

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