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Tunisia Cracks Down on Suspicious Charity Group Activities

Tunisia

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed

Tunis – The Tunisian authorities have given all charity organizations in the country a month to submit a statement on the foreign donations and grants that they receive.

The Tunisian government of Prime Minister Yousef Chahed is seeking through this measure to crack down on the suspicious activities of several of these groups.

It will also resort to the central bank and finance ministry to inspect the financial accounts of the organizations. The Interior Ministry has meanwhile been tasked with monitoring any suspicious acts, especially in regards to funding terrorism.

The organizations are obligated to submit their data to the government before the July 10 deadline.

The Tunisian government decision is taking place simultaneously with a campaign it is waging against businessmen and smugglers who had been accused of corruption.

The government estimates that around 20,000 charities operate in the country. Seventy percent of them were formed after 2011. In 2014, only 200 organizations disclosed the sources of their financing.

The government for its part only grants minimal funding for these groups.

(Source / 11.06.2017)

Rights group: Tunisia of neglecting missing persons file

Migrants arrive at Naples harbour in Italy on October 23, 2016 [Alessio Paduano / Anadolu]

Migrants arrive at Naples harbour in Italy on October 23, 2016

The Tunisian Forum on Economic and Social Rights said yesterday that the Tunisian government has neglected the file of more than 500 illegal Tunisian migrants who are missing in Italy.

“The current government is betting on the time factor to obscure the file of illegal Tunisian migrants, who went missing in Italy between 2010 and 2012,” the forum’s President, Abderrahmane Hedhili, told a press conference on Tuesday.

He added that successive governments have not considered this issue or raised it during negotiations on migration with the European Union.

Read: Tunisia and Italy increase cooperation on migration

Hedhili said the Tunisians follow-up committee which collects information and coordinates with the Italian authorities on the missing persons has delayed the completion of investigations into their fate.

President of El-Maseer Association for Mediterranean Youth and the mother of a missing person, Munira Ben Chafra, said she has travelled more than once to Italy and met with the Italian president and Parliament Speaker, both were cooperative.

I have confirmation that a number of missing young people are alive, but the Tunisian authorities have not taken serious action to determine their fate

she told the Anadolu Agency.

According to official Tunisian data issued in January, the fate of up to 509 Tunisians is unknown after they illegally crossed the maritime border.

(Source / 01.06.2017)

Tunisia confiscates property of businessmen arrested for graft

TUNIS, TUNISIA - MARCH 20: A Tunisian flag is raised up to the highest flagpole on the 61st anniversary of Tunisia's independence during a ceremony at Belvedere Park in Tunis, Tunisia on March 20, 2017 ( Amine Landoulsi - Anadolu Agency )

Tunisian flag is raised up to the highest flagpole on the 61st anniversary of Tunisia’s independence during a ceremony at Belvedere Park in Tunis, Tunisia on March 20, 2017

The Tunisian government has confiscated the property and frozen bank accounts of eight prominent businessmen arrested this week on suspicion of corruption in an unprecedented government campaign against graft, authorities said yesterday.

Tunisia has been praised as a model of transition after its 2011 revolution. But it still struggles with economic reforms and corruption six years after the fall of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in protests triggered in part by official graft.

Mounir Ferchichi, head of the Confiscation Committee, a state-financed agency, told reporters the government had seized property and frozen bank accounts of eight businessmen arrested this week on suspicion of involvement in corruption.

Chafik Jaraya, who maintains political contacts in Tunisia and Libya and helped finance the Nidaa Tounes ruling party during the last elections in 2014, was among those detained, officials said.

“Jaraya was not arrested, but abducted by the Interior Ministry forces. What is important now is his safety and we will speak later about corruption”, said Faycel Jadlaoui, lawyer for Jaraya.

The arrests on Tuesday came days after Imed Trabelsi, the son-in-law of former president Ben Ali, apologized to the Tunisian people for corruption and accused businessmen who worked with him of still being involved in customs crimes.

Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has announced a crackdown on corruption as he comes under pressure from protests in the south over gas production and also from international lenders over slow progress in delivering economic reforms.

The country’s anti-corruption committee says graft is still widespread since 2011 and that it threatens Tunisia with billions of dollars a year in losses. The committee has said it presented cases against 50 senior state officials believed to be involved in corruption.

Chahed pledged last year in his first speech since taking office that fighting corruption would be a priority for the government, but he said he believed battling graft would be more difficult than fighting terrorism.

(Source / 28.05.2017)

Tunisian police use tear gas to disperse protesters

Tunisians stage a protest after a person was killed during clashes between security forces and protesters in Tunis, Tunisia on 22 May, 2017 [Nacer Talel/Anadolu Agency]

Tunisians stage a protest after a person was killed during clashes between security forces and protesters in Tunis, Tunisia on 22 May, 2017

Tunisian police yesterday fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators who attempted to break into a gas pumping station in the south of the country as protests over jobs turned violent, Reuters reported.

Protesters forced the closure of the Vana Pumping Station along with other oil and gas facilities in the area over the weekend. They called for a share in the job market and energy revenues.

The Tunisian defence ministry said that it would use force to protect and retake the gas and oil facilities, while the army reopened Vana station however the protesters closed it again, triggering a violent response from the army.

Read: Tunisia protesters close oil pumping station after army standoff

Witnesses told Reuters that the clashes broke out at Vana when the military took back control to reopen the station.

Following the protests, the Tunisian government offered 1,000 job opportunities to locals with a further 500 to become available next year.

It said that the protesters rejected this offer, noting that they wanted all the jobs to start immediately in addition to a development fund with a $50 million deposit paid by the oil companies.

Tunisia is a small oil producer with an output of about 44,000 barrels per day. Italian, Austrian and French firms are investing in the country’s oil industry.

(Source / 23.05.2017)

Tunisian official: No new version of reconciliation law

Image of Abdellatif Mekki [tunistribune/Twitter]

Image of Abdellatif Mekki

There is no new version of the Tunisia’s National Reconciliation Law, the head of the Ennahda movement said yesterday.

In an interview with QudsPress, Abdellatif Mekki added that there are calls to draft a broader national reconciliation law outside the transitional justice phase.

He explained that the movement’s position of the old reconciliation law has not changed, noting that the old structure is working hard to prepare for the upcoming elections in 2019.

Read: Tunisia’s democratic transition has some achievements but still faces obstacles

Mekki warned that the controversy over the reconciliation law, which he believes is different from the old economic reconciliation law in terms of its broader capacity, could disrupt the demands to set the date of the local elections before the end of this year or be passed in parallel with setting the date for them.

Member of Parliament for the Democratic Movement, Samia Abbou, stressed the need not to pass the law even if there were calls for civil disobedience.

(Source / 27.03.2017)

Tunisia sentences former president Ben Ali to 6 years

Former President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali [file photo]

Former President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali [file photo]

A Tunisian court has sentenced in absentia former President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali to six years in prison on corruption charges.

The criminal court in the capital Tunis sentenced the former dictator after declaring that he had exploited his position for his own personal benefit.

The same court has also sentenced former higher education minister Al-Azhar Bou’ouni for the same period of six years, as well as former Ben Ali adviser and political backer Al-Sobhi Al-Umari for four years on charges of nepotism.

Read: Tunisia to conduct municipal elections this year

The rulings are not the first against Ben Ali and his regime.

Similar rulings have already been issued in other cases which have stirred controversy in Tunisia, where some parties demand to enact a law on social reconciliation.

The Tunisian Al-Sarih newspaper said that Halima Ben Ali, the former president’s daughter, has commissioned lawyers to obtain permission and a passport so that she and her brother Mohamed Zine El Abidine can visit Tunisia, where there are no charges against them.

(Source / 24.03.2017)

Nidaa Tunis’ problem and the government’s performance

Moncef Marzouki

Moncef Marzouki

When the Nidaa Tunis party emerged on the Tunisian political scene at the end of 2012, it appeared to be the only possible alternative to the three party coalition formed by the Ennahda party, the coalition led by Moncef Marzouki, and the cluster of parties being led by Mustapha Ben Jaafar. The rhetoric of the new party has already brought together personalities from different walks of life (from the old regime, the political left, trade unionists, feminists and other liberal figures). This mixture of personalities seemed to be the perfect formula for defeating the current of political Islam and its revolutionary forces. In addition, one must note the social tensions emphasised by the Tunisian General Union of Labour.

The new party did not have a specific ideological or political platform, as many believed that the main battle was to wage and win the fight against Islamists perhaps in what would be their electoral victory. It looked to the model implemented by Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in Egypt: change according to circumstance and not the alleged party animosity. In reality, it appears that the party gained the three largest positions (prime minister, government majority and the constituent assembly). It was at this point that the disagreements began which lead to a strange situation for analysts.

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi

The reality that normally ensues is that a party becomes more united and cohesive after a victory but this was not the case for Nidaa Tunis which began to unravel after a number of parliamentarians formed a separate group with its own agenda. The problem rests with the emergence of two offshoots within one targeted party, one led by Moncef Marzouki. In response, the moderate personalities within the party who had contributed to its formation, began to gradually withdraw from the party and support Hafedh Caid Essebsi, the son of the current President of Tunisia, Beji Caid Essebsi.

Aside from this, the crisis facing the party does not end at the borders of the internal conflict but extends and negatively impacts the performance of the Tunisian government. This began with the attempts to bring down former Prime Minister of Tunisia, Habib Essid, who wanted to leave behind a legacy that was different than that of the ruling parties.

One must end what is happening today by noting the actions of the current Prime Minister, Youssef Chahed. The latest in leaked documents showed the minutes from the party’s most recent meetings revealed the current tensions between Hafedh Caid, his followers and the rest of the party. The latter accused the former of conspiring against the party in an effort to bring down ministers by promoting an atmosphere that would lead to their political failure. The accusations waged against Nidaa Tunis’ opposition are that the party has been prevented from exercising its full potential. What is worth noting in these leaked documents, which are not the first of their kind, are Hafedh Essebsi’s way to foster the image that the relationship between himself and his ally in the government – the Ennahda party – is one based on tensions and chaos and that stability will prevail so long as the old man stays in the presidential palace.

The leaked documents are a source of worry for a number of political analysts from two specific angles. The first is that Nidaa Tunis, if dissolved, will leave behind a political void that cannot be filled at the current moment by any other replacement. This will cause a sense of chaos among the ranks of those who voted for this party. From another angle, governmental performance has been severely weakened due to a growing level of confusion. Youssef Chahed’s visit to Ben Kardan was a case in point for the importance of his presence on the political scene, and the magnitude of his political influence when he found himself in front of a large crowd praising the former Prime Minister Moncef Marzouki.

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi (R) meets with Youssef Chahed head of the future national unity government, at Carthage Palace in Tunis, Tunisia on August 21, 2016

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi (R) meets with Youssef Chahed head of the future national unity government, at Carthage Palace in Tunis, Tunisia on August 21, 2016

In addition to what the government is facing with regards to meeting the demands of the labour unions, and the demands of the replacement of the education minister among other ministers, it has been exposed that some ministers and politicians have been making political gains. All of this points to one major thing: the need to review the role of the government based on its performance and its separation from Nidaa Tunis, which is slowly falling apart. The rest is dependent on Beji Caid Essebsi’s continued role as president. The current situation exposes the reality of Tunisian parties in a post-revolutionary society and the challenges facing the democratisation process and its radicalisation.

In exchange, this might be the perfect opportunity for some of the political forces who may now win over Nidaa Tunis’ voters. It is also important to know that the power of the Tunisian political parties is currently suffering from a political impasse and a lack of political mobilisation and organisation on the popular level. The consequences of this will be reflected in the coming elections. Many might abstain from voting unless provided with alternatives.

(Source / 22.03.2017)

‘France used force to prevent Ennahda from ruling Tunisia’

Participants during the 10th general assembly of Ennahda Party at Olypmic Hall in Rades, Tunisia on May 20, 2016.

Participants during the 10th general assembly of Ennahda Party at Olypmic Hall in Rades, Tunisia on May 20, 2016

A member of the Political Bureau of Moroccan Authenticity and Modernity  Party, Abdul Latif Wehbe, has accused France of meddling in the Tunisian affairs and using “force and violence” to prevent the Ennahda movement from leading the government.

Wehbe, who resigned last week as head of his party, said: “France has intervened through force and violence to prevent Tunisia’s Ennahda movement from continuing in office, after it reached it through elections.”

“France was not interested in any Islamic-oriented government in the region, and tried to prevent it,” he said.

Why is France’s colonial chapter in Algeria anything but history ?

However, Wehbe added that France allowed Morocco to have an Islamic oriented-government because “Morocco knows how to manage its problems”.

The Moroccan MP’s remarks coincide with Tunisian media reports about the possible involvement of France in the “assassination” of opposition leaders, Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi, after French President Francois Hollande admitted to giving orders to carry out assassinations “in favour of France” abroad in his book “A President Should Not Say That: Secrets of Five Years in Office”.

(Source / 16.03.2017)

Russia on Tunisia’s borders

People hold Tunisian flags at the Habib Bourguiba street during the 189th anniversary of Tunisian flag in Tunis, Tunisia on October 22, 2016 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]

People hold Tunisian flags at the Habib Bourguiba street during the 189th anniversary of Tunisian flag in Tunis, Tunisia on October 22, 2016

The late Tunisian President, Habib Bourguiba, was cautious in his relations with Russia, as his main reliance, after independence, was to depend on Europe and America strategically without provoking the Soviet Union or engaging the country in a military alliance that will only result in peril. Even when Bourguiba decided to freeze the Communist Party in Tunisia in the early 1960s, he made sure this did not affect the stability in Tunisia, as he preferred what he considered an internal affair to having “normalised” ties with the socialist camp.

The ideological polarisation has disappeared today, but the atmosphere of the Cold War has started to return after the unilateral pole, led by the US, started to fail. In this context, Tunisia is concerned with three major matters that may have direct consequences on its foreign policy.

The first matter is the endemic economic and political crisis in Western Europe, especially in France, which was considered a main ally of Tunisia. The French economy is ill and it will not be able to regain its health quickly. In addition to this, the French political level is very exhausted and weak after the decline of the socialists, the fragmentation of the right and centre wing, and as Marine Le Pen is leading the opinion polls. If she wins, her position will be extreme against Ennahda and the Tunisian immigrants.

Read: Washington state moves to block Trump’s new ‘Muslim ban’

The second issue is regarding Washington’s policy during the term of US President Donald Trump. It is true that so far, there are no strong indicators of a significant shift in the White House’s policy regarding Tunisia, but with the new president, anything is possible.

NEW YORK, NY – FEBRUARY 19: People take part in a rally called ‘I Am A Muslim Too’ in a show of solidarity with American Muslims at Times Square on February 19, 2017 in New York City. A new version of a Trump administration travel ban will not stop green card holders or travelers already on planes from entering the United States, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly said.

As for the third issue, it concerns Libya, as one can see the growing role of Russia in Tunisia’s neighbouring country, and which has a great impact on it economically and in terms of security. America’s concern with the Libyan issue, which still constitutes an explosive issue that can erupt at any time, has declined. Even the Europeans have clearly contradicting calculations and their ability to resolve the issue is limited.

Given this, a number of Libyan and Arab parties have begun welcoming a Russian role that “may be effective”. This is welcomed by Moscow and it invests in the opportunity to enhance its influence and positions inside this large tempting oil country.

Hence, Tunisia finds itself needing to develop its relations with Russia and it realises what it had missed out in the past. However, it must not hasten its steps or miscalculate.

After the revolution, the Tunisians have slowly felt their way through things, as there have been several meetings between their officials and their Russian counterparts, the most recent of which was between the Tunisian Foreign Minister Khamis Alaghinawa and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov during the Fourth Arab-Russian Forum in Abu Dhabi.

Read: For Arab revolutionaries, there is no choice but to continue the fight

During this meeting, both sides confirmed the special level of friendship and partnership reached. They also agreed to increase visits and preparation for what they described as “the upcoming mutual benefits that would enhance the opportunities for partnership and investment.” In this regard, I must mention that Russia was present in all of the events held at the international conference – Tunisia 2020 – supporting the economy and investment. In addition to this, the Tunisian foreign minister did not hesitate to invite the Russians to invest in the projects included in the 2016-2020 development plan, especially in the infrastructure field.

Furthermore, the Russians did not do what the Europeans and Americans did when they encouraged their citizens not to travel to Tunisia under the pretext of terrorist dangers after the Bardo Museum and Sousse hotel attacks. On the contrary, Moscow encouraged the Russians to visit Tunisia, which led to the number of Russian tourists in Tunisia to reach over 600,000. This alleviated some of the burden of the crisis still suffered by the Tunisian tourism sector.

Hence, it has become clear that the current developments on the regional and international level may push a country like Tunisia, sooner or later, towards getting closer to the Russian bear which already has a foot in deteriorating Libya, at a time when the Westerners are busy with their own internal affairs and sometimes small calculations.

(Source / 14.03.2017)

Tunisia to conduct municipal elections this year

Leader of Tunisia’s Ennahda Party, Rachid Ghannouchi [file photo]

Leader of Tunisia’s Ennahda Party, Rachid Ghannouchi [file photo]

The head of Tunisia’s Ennahda movement Rachid Ghannouchi said the Tunisian factions have agreed to conduct municipal elections before the end of the year.

Ghannouchi explained that the signatories to the Carthage Document met with Prime Minister Youssef Chahed and agreed to hold the elections and to hold regular meetings to arrange for the elections.

In a press statement after a consultative meeting with a number of national organisations, Chahed said that the elections constitute an important stage in the Tunisian democratic path.

He stressed on the need to ensure the success of the elections.

Tunisia was scheduled to hold municipal elections in 2016, but disagreements over some of the terms of the law governing them prevented them going ahead.

(Source / 13.03.2017)