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Crime & Justice 2013-01-11

Tunisia frees Benghazi attack suspect

By Monia Ghanmi for Magharebia in Tunis - 11/01/13

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A Tunis court this week conditionally freed Ali Harzi, a Tunisian suspected of involvement in the US consulate attack in Benghazi last September.

"The release was made in response to our demand because his file is clean, and also after US investigators questioned him as a witness in the case," his lawyer Anwar Oued-Ali said in response to the January 7th court ruling.

He emphasised that the defendant must remain in the Tunis area for any further questioning since the release was conditional.

Harzi was arrested last October in Turkey and handed over to Tunisia. Interior Minister Ali Larayedh then said in a television interview that Harzi was "strongly suspected to have been involved in the attack of Benghazi".

He had also been imprisoned in 2006 for "a desire to join jihad in Iraq" under the anti-terrorism law and released under the "general legislative pardon" after the Tunisian revolution.

His brother, Tarek Harzi is currently in an Iraqi prison in connection with terrorism charges.

Four FBI investigators questioned Harzi on December 21st at a Tunis district court.

They asked Harzi about Ansar al-Sharia leader Abou Iyadh, accused of links to the US consulate assault in Tunis, Abdelbasset Ben Mbarek, another member of Harzi's defence team, told AFP.

"If he had been implicated in the attack, he would not have been released," he said, adding that his client remained under judicial control because he was still charged with belonging to a terrorist group.

Some observers, however, fear that the move might embolden radical elements that threaten Tunisia's security.

It is a first step by the government to free other salafists accused of violent acts, commented rights activist Moncef Khabir. He suggested that the release might be part of a plan to court salafist voters in the next election.

"They should have released, for example, Sami Fehri who has already had a release order issued from the appeal court," Khabir said.

The Ettounsiya TV director was jailed last August after his station aired a satirical puppet show that mocked members of the Ennahda-led government.

"Releasing a dangerous person with a record may threaten the country's security," Khabir added. "This comes in the framework of the executive authority going off its original course to satisfy its future political needs."

Tunisian citizen Maher Jouini commented that young people should avoid "bellicose speech that is hostile to the West" because it "produces injustice and terrorism that tarnishes the image of Islam and gives pretexts for sowing hostility and hatred".

"Islam has nothing do with attacks on ambassadors or non-Muslim seekers of protection," he added. "Wisdom lies in following the example of the Prophet and winning hearts and minds through good manners."

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  1. Anonymous thumb

    che 2013-1-12

    The ayatollahs that now govern Tunisia know very well this guy can disappear and free him, while accused of belonging to a terrorist organization. Meanwhile Mr. Fehri accused of embezzlement is kept in prison despite the highest appeal court ordering his release. Tunisia is slowly but surely drowning in extremism. It is time to stop calling Ennahdha a moderate islamist party and the salafists any other qualification than extremists and terrorists. Sorry to say the USA made a poor choice of ally. I hope the USA will start supporting the real democrats that want equality between men and women (and not complementarity of women vis a vis men, i.e. a status of appendix)and want religion not to interfere in government. Ennahdha is not a friend of the USA nor of Tunisian democracy, simply they are waiting to show their ugly face when they will have controlled the army, the police and the administration. they use the same corrupt judges of Ben Ali that they blackmail instead of having them judged. Same thing for journalists, businessmen (to fund their party) and the rest. Poor Tunisia where poverty,unemplyment and lack of security are on the rise and where Ennahdha militia physically assault and sometime kills democrats. The "tontons macoutes" thugs of Haiti and the "SA" of Hitler, here named committees to safeguard the revolution are controlled and paid by Ennahdha. Essentially the same thugs that Ben Ali used plus salafists. USA beware!


  2. Anonymous thumb

    David Howard 2013-1-11

    The FBI uses polygraphs to eliminate suspects...