9 April Prison in Tunisia


The 9 April prison is characterized by its location at the outskirts of the old city, next to the complex of major hospitals and a number of sovereign institutions, including the Ministry of Justice and some courts. It was the biggest prison in the country until its demolition, removal and replacement with the Mornaguia prison at the beginning of this century. Since it was established at the beginning of the 20th century, thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of detainees and convicts were placed here, including anti-colonialists, and nationalist activists of different ideological, political and ethnic backgrounds.

The main prisoners detained, during the colonial era, were opponents of the colonial oppression and repression imposed on Libya in 1911. Also, prisoners included those arrested following what is known as the Jallaz Affair, including Al-Manoubi and Al-Djardjar, whose heads were cut off in public by a guillotine that was brought from Algeria and set up near the prison in the Bab Abi-Sadun square. 
After independence, more generations were detained and imprisoned here, including the Yusufid people who had differences with Bourguiba who in turn accused his opponents of seeking to overthrow him. Students who dreamt of participating in running the public affairs, various groups of men and women, as well as nationalists and leftists who also had ambitions to become genuine citizens were also imprisoned here. Even followers of the only ruling party who barely attempted to voice their own individual and independent opinions were not spared from imprisonment here. The prison was known for containing a gallows, and among the last to be executed there were a group of opponents called the Gafsa group in 1980. The gallows were also used to execute convicts of the public rights until the beginning of the 1990s. The prison was also popular for the ‘Death Ward’ where prisoners sentenced to death, mentally ill or prisoners of opinion were placed. 

After the revolution, public figures and CSOs demanded that the prison site—protected by the revolution from a conspiracy by influential people planning to lay their hands on it— to be transformed into a site of memory. The first Prime Minister, of the first government formed after the elections, promised to build a museum at the site to remember the time of repression and resistance. Thus, on June 26 of every year, the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, an extensive coordination group of human rights defenders organize a march that starts from the nearby Palace of Justice and ends at the site. They recall the pains and suffering of those who have been imprisoned and call once again for assigning the prison as a site of conscience. The current Minister of Justice, however, has recently announced that the site will be assigned to establish the new headquarters of the Court of First Instance.


Remote video URL
A virtual visit to the ancient prison, 24 April 2016