Tunisian PM designate expects government next week: report

Tunisian President Kais Saied shakes hands with Prime Minister designate Habib Jemli in Tunis, Tunisia, in this handout pictured obtained by Reuters on November 15, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 03 December 2019

Tunisian PM designate expects government next week: report

  • “I expect to finish forming the government next week,” the PM told Reuters

CARTHAGE: Tunisia’s prime minister-designate Habib Jemli expects to form a government next week with political independents holding most of the important portfolios, he said on Tuesday.
Jemli, who was named to the job by the moderate Islamist Ennahda party which finished first in October’s election, added that he would continue with economic reforms begun under previous governments, but would implement them differently.
“I expect to finish forming the government next week,” he told Reuters in an interview at the government office in Carthage.
October’s parliamentary election resulted in a deeply fractured parliament with no party winning more than a quarter of seats, complicating the process of coalition building.
Jemli said he would give the interior, justice, defense and foreign ministries to political independents who are unaffiliated with the big parties and that Ennahda understood this.
His choice of finance minister is somebody with a high local and international profile able to negotiate with foreign partners, Jemli said, without revealing the person’s name.
“Economic reforms and combating widespread corruption in all parts of the state will be my priority,” he said.
“Reforms are necessary, but with a new methodology. They must be in partnership with the labor union,” he added.
The union has opposed some government efforts to tighten public spending while foreign lenders have urged lower deficits.
The issue of corruption was thrust further into the political spotlight this autumn with the election of President Kais Saied, a political independent, a week after the parliamentary vote.
Saied, who as president has fewer immediate powers than the prime minister, ran an austere campaign that spent very little money and was portrayed by supporters as a figure of rigid personal integrity.
Tunisia’s economy has suffered years of low growth since the 2011 revolution that ended autocracy and introduced democratic rule, with successive governments struggling to create jobs and tame inflation.
Big increases in state jobs and public sector pay after the revolution contributed to large deficits and growing government debt, which the outgoing administration has tried to rein in through reforms backed by the International Monetary Fund.
Jemli said he planned to digitise more government functions, to improve governance of state-run companies, where performance has drastically declined since the revolution, and reduce bureaucracy.
Previous governments had gone wrong in failing to stick to the pledges they had made to international lenders regarding economic growth and the size of the public sector wage bill, he said.


Jailed academic rejects offer to spy for Iran

Updated 21 January 2020

Jailed academic rejects offer to spy for Iran

LONDON: An academic currently imprisoned in Iran on charges of espionage has reportedly refused an offer to become a spy for Tehran in return for her freedom.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a UK-Australian dual national, made the revelation in a series of letters handed to The Times that were smuggled out of Evin prison, located in the north of the capital, where she is serving 10 years.

In the letters, addressed separately to a Mr. Vasiri, believed to be a deputy prosecutor in the Iranian judiciary, and a Mr. Ghaderi and Mr. Hosseini, who are thought to be officers in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Moore-Gilbert stated in basic Farsi that she had “never been a spy, and I have no intention to work for a spying organization in any country.” 

She added: “Please accept this letter as an official and definitive rejection of your offer to me to work with the intelligence branch of the IRGC.”

Moore-Gilbert, a lecturer in Islamic studies at the University of Melbourne in Australia, was arrested in 2018 after attending a conference in Tehran. 

She was tried and convicted in secret, and her letters implied that she had been kept in solitary confinement in a wing of Evin prison under the IRGC’s control.

It is reportedly the same wing being used to detain UK-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, also incarcerated for espionage, and away from the all-female cellblock that Moore-Gilbert was meant to have been housed in.

The letters catalog a series of other mistreatments and inhumane conditions, suggesting she had been permitted no contact with her family, and that, having been denied access to vital medication, her health was deteriorating.

She also suggested that she had been subjected to sleep deprivation methods, with lights in her cell kept on 24 hours per day, and that she was often blindfolded when transported. 

“It is clear that IRGC Intelligence is playing an awful game with me. I am an innocent victim,” she wrote.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne met with her Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in India last week, where the case was discussed.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry later issued a statement claiming that the country would not “submit to political games and propaganda” over the issue.

This comes at a time when international pressure has ratcheted up on the regime in Tehran following the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane over the capital on Jan. 8. 

Mass demonstrations nationwide followed the news that the plane had been shot down by Iranian forces. 

Olympian defects to Germany

Meanwhile, Iran’s only female Olympic medalist, Kimia Alizadeh, announced that she would not return to the country, citing her refusal to continue to be used as a “propaganda tool.”

She wrote of her decision on Instagram: “I wore whatever they told me and repeated whatever they ordered. Every sentence they ordered I repeated. None of us matter for them, we are just tools.”

It was revealed on Jan. 20 that the taekwondo martial artist, who had been living and training in Eindhoven in the Netherlands, had elected to move to Hamburg in Germany, for whom she will now compete.

Alizadeh’s defection is just one in a series of high-profile acts of defiance by Iranians outraged by the actions of the regime.

At least two journalists working for Iranian state-owned TV channels are known to have resigned their positions in protest.

One, news anchor Gelare Jabbari, posted on Instagram: “It was very hard for me to believe that our people have been killed. Forgive me that I got to know this late. And forgive me for the 13 years I told you lies.”