Returning militants to face anti-terror laws in Tunisia

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, right, heads a council of ministers meeting with his cabinet in Tunis on Friday. (AFP)
Updated 31 December 2016
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Returning militants to face anti-terror laws in Tunisia

TUNIS: Returning Tunisian militants will be immediately arrested and judged under anti-terrorism laws, the prime minister said, seeking to calm fears over the homecoming of some of the country’s several thousand militants.
Tunisia is among the countries with the highest per capita number of militant, a problem linked to widespread radicalization among disillusioned youth and a loosening of security controls after Tunisia’s 2011 uprising.
More than 3,000 Tunisians are known to have traveled abroad to wage insurgency, according to the Interior Ministry. Last week, the interior minister said 800 had already come back to Tunisia, without giving details on what had happened after their return.
Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said returnees would be dealt with according to a 2015 anti-terrorism law that is designed to ease the arrest and prosecution of suspected militants.
“Those who come back will be arrested immediately after their arrival on Tunisian soil and will be judged under the anit-terrorism law,” Chahed told state TV late on Thursday.
He also said authorities had comprehensive records on militants who had left the country. “We have all the details on them, we know them one by one, and we have taken all the necessary measures,” he said.
The comments by Chahed, a member of the secularist Nidaa Tounes party, came amid a fierce political debate over how to deal with foreign fighters.
Some secularist politicians have called for them to be stripped of their nationality, though the right to citizenship is protected under the constitution.
Politicians from the Ennahda, part of the governing coalition, have said Tunisia is still responsible for returning militants and that the government cannot prevent them from coming back.
The debate intensified after a deadly Christmas market attack in Berlin believed to have been carried out by a Tunisian, Anis Amri, whom Italy and Germany had earlier failed to deport.
It has also been fueled by military setbacks for Daesh in neighboring Libya and in Iraq, with the expectation that Tunisians fighting with the group will start to return in larger numbers.
Tunisia’s anti-terrorism law was passed last year in the wake of two major attacks against foreign tourists by Daesh gunmen, the first at the Bardo museum in Tunis, and the second on a beach in the Tunisian city of Sousse.
The law was criticized by human rights groups concerned about an authoritarian backlash by Tunisian security forces.


Iraqi cleric Al-Sadr threatens to withdraw support for Abdul Mahdi’s government

Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. (AFP)
Updated 18 June 2019
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Iraqi cleric Al-Sadr threatens to withdraw support for Abdul Mahdi’s government

  • “No one can predict what Al-Sadr thinks and even his MPs do not know what the man thinks, so it is likely that this threat is part of the ongoing negotiations”

BAGHDAD: Moqtada Al-Sadr, the powerful Iraqi Shiite cleric, on Monday threatened to withdraw his support for the government of Adel Abdul Mahdi if the prime minister fails to finalize the formation of his Cabinet within 10 days.
Al-Sadr is one of the most influential clerics in the country, with millions of followers, a large armed faction and a parliamentary bloc. He is the official sponsor of the Reform Alliance, the second-largest parliamentary coalition, which is overseeing the formation of the government following the national parliamentary elections in May last year. The removal of his support for Abdul Mahdi’s government might take the form of an announcement that he no longer has confidence in the Parliament, or the organization of mass demonstrations.
Abdul Mahdi, who became prime minister in October, formed his government with the support of Reform and the pro-Iranian Construction coalition. The latter is led by Hadi Al-Amiri, the commander of Badr Organization, one of the most powerful Shiite armed factions. However, disputes between the two alliances over some of the candidates erupted at the last minute, as a result of which four ministries remain vacant: Interior, defense, education and justice.

Monday’s statement, which was signed by Al-Sadr and described as his “last call,” was addressed to his Saeiroon parliamentary bloc, the leaders of all political blocs, and Abdul Mahdi. It was issued in response to criticism on social on Monday because of the vote by members of the parliamentary blocs, including Al-Sadr’s MPs, the day before to grant all the privileges enjoyed by the former MPs to the deputies who ruled out by the Federal Supreme Court due to the error of counting their votes.
“All the political blocs must authorize the prime minister to complete his ministerial Cabinet within 10 days…and he (Abdul Mahdi) must choose (the ministers) according to the standards of integrity, efficiency and specialization, or I will not support him,” Al-Sadr’s statement read.

His position is the latest in a series of events that have put pressure on Abdul Mahdi in recent weeks. These include efforts by some political blocs, including Saeiroon, to dismiss a number of ministers under the pretext of failure to improve services and inability to combat the financial and administrative corruption that is rampant in their departments.
While most political leaders believe that reaching a political agreement on candidates to fill the vacant ministries within 10 days “will be very difficult” and predict “this may be the end of the government of Abdul Mahdi,” some believe that Al-Sadr’s goal is to pile more pressure on Abdul Mahdi as a way to obtain certain concessions.

“Saeiroon is still negotiating with the prime minister and the other political partners to obtain some key government posts that its rivals are looking to get, and Abdul Mahdi refused to give them to the Saeiroon candidates, so this could be a part of this,” said a prominent Shiite negotiator who asked not to be named. “No one can predict what Al-Sadr thinks and even his MPs do not know what the man thinks, so it is likely that this threat is part of the ongoing negotiations."