EXCLUSIVE: reactions to the arrest of a Tunisian political leader in Algeria

Tunisian MP Hichem Ajbouni commented yesterday on the arrest of Qalb Tounes party president Nabil Karoui in Algeria. To this end, he denounced the businessman’s escape because he and his sympathizers continue to proclaim themself innocent. Hichem Ajbouni also hoped that Karoui would benefit from a fair and impartial trial, away from any pressure and retaliatory attempts.

Even the former health minister, Abdellatif Mekki, questioned why the party leader Qalb Tounes left Tunisian territory if he was sure of his innocence. At the same time, Mekki urged all politicians and business people who have open accounts with the Tunisian justice not to try to flee abroad and not hide, believing that the best way to prove one’s innocence is to do it in court. The procedure can certainly be lengthy, but in the end, any innocent will win, he added. The former minister also asked in a post published yesterday on his official Facebook page to separate the political world from the business.

On 25 July, the crowd forced the President of the Republic to apply Article 80 of the Constitution. By withdrawing diplomatic immunity from members of Parliament and replacing the heads of the Ministry of the Interior, President Kais Saied finally allowed the judiciary to act and reopen hundreds of files involving the deputies of Al-Karama and Ennahdha, the leading radical Islamist parties.

According to the Algerian newspaper “Avant-Garde,” the head of Qalb Tounes, Nabil Karoui, and his brother Ghazi were arrested in Tbessa. In all likelihood, they will be handed over to the Tunisian authorities as part of a refugee exchange agreement. Algeria reportedly obtained the arrest in Tunis and the expulsion of the Algerian political refugee, Slimane Bouhafs, who has lived in Tunisia since 2018 and was allegedly kidnapped by unknown persons on 25 August before reappearing in an Algerian police station. However, the newspaper specifies that Bouhafs has been placed under the protection of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Tunis.

Slimane Bouhafs, a Christian by confession, was kidnapped from his home in Hay El Tahrir, in the Tunisian capital, by three plainclothes in a van with a foreign license plate. The man has lived in Tunisia since August 2018, where he obtained political refugee status from the UNHCR office in Tunis. In Algeria, he was arrested on 31 July 2016 on charges of offending Islam and the prophet’s image. For “his Christian faith,” he would have been condemned to three years in prison. Instead, he left the Algerian jail in April 2018 before taking refuge in neighboring Tunisia.



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