Tunisia rallies after a “black day,” president’s health improves

Updated 28 June 2019
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Tunisia rallies after a “black day,” president’s health improves

  • Normal life appeared to be returning
  • “We are not afraid, we will not give up”

TUNIS: Tunisia’s president is recovering his health and speaking to colleagues, authorities said on Friday, signalling a return to normality after a turbulent 24 hours in which the elderly leader fell ill and militants staged attacks in the capital.
President Beji Caid Essebsi, 92, a major player in the North African country’s transition to democracy following a 2011 revolution, was taken to a military hospital on Thursday after suffering a “severe health crisis.”
His health emergency coincided with attacks by two suicide bombers who blew themselves up in Tunis, killing one officer and wounding several others.
The attacks, claimed by Daesh, took place months before an election and at the peak of a tourist season in which Tunisia is hoping for a record number of visitors.
Alarmed by the spate of troubling news, many Tunisians described Thursday as a “black day.”
But on Friday, normal life appeared to be returning.
Shops reopened in Charles De Gaulle, a commercial street, and cafes were crowded in the main Habib Bourguiba street. Tourists and Tunisians alike wandered the markets as normal.
“We are not afraid, we will not give up,” said a woman who gave her name as Sana.
“We will continue our lives and our democracy, which frightens them.”
Tourism Minister Rene Trabelsi told reporters that the incident would not affect tourism in the country, adding that tourist sites were under tight security surveillance.
“Desperate act”
The presidency spokeswoman said Essebsi’s health had improved significantly and he had called the defense minister to discuss the situation in the country.
Essebsi has been a prominent figure in Tunisia since the overthrow of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, which was followed by uprisings against autocratic leaders across the Middle East.
On Friday, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed played down the impact of the attacks and said it was a “desperate act of the collapse of terrorist groups.”
Tunisia has battled militant groups operating in remote areas near the border with Algeria since the 2011 uprising. High unemployment has also stoked unrest in recent years.
Security has improved since authorities imposed a state of emergency in November 2015 after dozens died in militant attacks earlier that year — one at a museum in Tunis and another on a beach in Sousse. A third attack targeted presidential guards in the capital and killed 12. Daesh claimed responsibility.
Those actions scared off holidaymakers and investors, worsening an economic crisis.
But this year Tunisia expects to receive a million tourists for the first time, seeking to restore confidence in its ability to protect its lifeline tourist income.
Essebsi’s health episode raised questions on social media about the management of the country in the event that the post president became vacant unexpectedly. But Nourredine Benticha, a top adviser to Essebsi, said there would be no constitutional vacancy.
Parliamentary elections are expected to be held on Oct. 6 with a presidential vote following on Nov. 17.


Dead body business attracts medics, drug dealers in Egypt

Egyptian Christians stand outside St. Markos Church in Minya, south of Cairo, Egypt, in this Jan. 6, 2015 file photo. (AP)
Updated 23 July 2019
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Dead body business attracts medics, drug dealers in Egypt

  • Some of the gravediggers remove tissues and grease from the bones by boiling them to remove their odor before selling them to students

CAIRO: The Egyptian Orthodox Church has issued a statement condemning the theft of the body of the Patriarch Gerges, son of priest Ibrahim Al-Basit, from his family’s burial place in the Minya governorate.
Last Saturday, the cemetery was opened and Al-Basit’s body was stolen. The crime of stealing the bodies of the dead has recently spread across Egypt, especially while the sanctity of the body remains preserved. It is also common for the remains to be collected two years after the burial.
Last October, a gang was arrested after stealing bodies from their graves. An investigation has revealed that the main defendant sold the bodies to medical students for practical learning.
Some of the gravediggers remove tissues and grease from the bones by boiling them to remove their odor before selling them to students.
The investigation found that the defendant had put a price on various limbs. The leg and the arm were priced at 3,000 Egyptian pounds ($180), the skull cost 5,000 pounds and the whole body was worth 20,000 pounds.
Ashraf Farahat, a legal expert and lawyer, said that Egyptian law demands up to five years of imprisonment and a fine of 100-500 pounds for criminals who violate the sanctity of graves.
Yasser Sayed Ahmed, a legal expert and lawyer, said he knew of many cases where cemetery guards and assistants help people access graves for superstitious reasons in exchange for large sums of money.
The majority of these cases are happening with the help of the guards of the tombs. They exhume graves at night to extract the bodies and separate the organs to sell bones and skulls. They often sell them to drug dealers by grinding and mixing some materials for sale at high prices.