Tunisian activist Azyz Amami’s trial on Friday (May 23rd) is sparking a national debate on the issue of criminal penalties for cannabis possession.

Amami and a friend were arrested May 12th in La Goulette for alleged possession of a narcotic substance.

The 31-year-old from Sidi Bouzid gained fame as an opponent of the Ben Ali regime. He was one of the first bloggers to write about the Tunisian revolution. He has also spoken out against police actions targeting young people.

Amami, who denies the charges, has received broad support. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) denounced his arrest as an example of “the persistent prosecution of youth and activists of the revolution”. Tunis youths this week protested outside the interior ministry headquarters to demand his release.

According to attorney Ghazi Mrabet, Amami’s arrest aims to quell free speech and eliminate what is left of the spirit of the...

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