UN expert held in Tunisia over ‘espionage’ freed on bail: sources

Moncef Kartas is a member of the UN panel of experts investigating allegations of violations of an arms embargo and other sanctions imposed on Libya. (File/AFP)
Updated 21 May 2019
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UN expert held in Tunisia over ‘espionage’ freed on bail: sources

TUNIS: A United Nations arms expert held in Tunisia since late March on espionage charges was released Tuesday on bail, the prosecution service said.
Moncef Kartas is a member of the UN panel of experts investigating allegations of violations of an arms embargo and other sanctions imposed on Libya.
The Tunisian-German dual national was detained on arrival in Tunis on March 26.
“The indictment division has decided to release Moncef Kartas on bail,” prosecution spokesman Sofiene Sliti said.
But Kartas was still being prosecuted for the “unofficial collection of information related to terrorism, which constitutes a dangerous crime,” he told AFP.
The investigation had uncovered equipment used to control civil and military air traffic and whose use “requires authorization,” he added.
Kartas’s defense team has said the charges are linked to the arms expert’s possession of a device allowing him to have access to data on flights of civil and commercial aircraft.
The device, an RTL-SDR, was used “only for monitoring air traffic to Libya, in order to identify flights that could be linked to violations of the arms embargo,” said his lawyer, Sarah Zaafrani.
Last week, the United Nations rejected Tunisia’s reasons for Kartas’s arrest and demanded charges be dropped and his immediate release.
It argued that, as a UN employee, Kartas was subject to diplomatic immunity, but Tunisia challenged this.
The UN panel investigating the alleged sanctions breaches has reported that arms and ammunition deliveries still reach warring parties in Libya — with the involvement of member states — despite the embargo.
Libya, which borders Tunisia, has seen an uptick in violence since military strongman Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive on April 4 to take the capital Tripoli from the UN-recognized government.
An arms embargo has been in force since Libya’s 2011 revolt that toppled its longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi.


Iran commemorates war with parade of tanks, missiles

Updated 23 September 2019

Iran commemorates war with parade of tanks, missiles

  • Saudi Arabia and the US have accused Iran of a Sept. 14 drone and missile attack on oil facilities

JEDDAH: As Saudi Arabia prepared to celebrate its National Day with entertainment events, firework displays and cultural events, Iran staged a military parade in Tehran on Sunday with tanks, missiles and armored vehicles.

President Hassan Rouhani and Iranian military leaders saluted as ranks of soldiers marched past them in tight unison, followed by an array of military hardware.

Among the weapons on display in the parade, held to mark the anniversary of the start of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980, was an upgraded warhead for the Khorramshahr ballistic missile, said to have a range of 2,000km, and the Kaman 12 drone with a range of 1,000km. Speedboats and warships were shown in video footage on state TV.

Saudi Arabia and the US have accused Iran of a Sept. 14 drone and missile attack on oil facilities in the east of the Kingdom. After the attack the Pentagon ordered US troops to reinforce Saudi air and missile defenses.

In a speech at Monday’s parade, Rouhani denounced the US presence. “Foreign forces can cause problems and insecurity for our people and for our region,” he said.

“If they’re sincere, then they should not make our region the site of an arms race.

“Their presence has always brought pain and misery ... the farther they keep themselves from our region and our nations, the more security there will be.”

The US aims to avoid war with Iran and the additional troops are for “deterrence and defense,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday.

“If that deterrence should continue to fail, I am also confident that President Trump would continue to take the actions that are necessary,” he said.