Tunisia arrests 11 after clashes in birthplace of Arab Spring

A Tunisian child waves atop a monument on Bouazizi street on August 15, 2019 in the central Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid, which nine years ago saw the start of the Arab Spring movements that brought down multiple autocrats in the Arab world (AFP/ File Photo).
Updated 03 December 2019

Tunisia arrests 11 after clashes in birthplace of Arab Spring

  • “Youths aged between 11 and 18 attacked law enforcement officers during the night, throwing stones at them and wounding 20 officers,” spokesman Hayouni said
  • Security forces dispersed the youths with tear gas

TUNIS: Eleven Tunisians were arrested during a night of clashes between protesters and police in the central region of Sidi Bouzid, the interior ministry said Tuesday, after the self-immolation of a young man sparked outrage.
Clashes in Jelma started after the death last Friday of a 25-year-old who set himself on fire in the center of the impoverished town in desperation over his economic woes.
Angry residents blocked roads and attacked police on Saturday and Sunday nights, interior ministry spokesman Khaled Hayouni told AFP.
“Youths aged between 11 and 18 attacked law enforcement officers during the night, throwing stones at them and wounding 20 officers,” Hayouni said. Security forces dispersed the youths with tear gas.
Elsewhere in the region, several hundred people burned tires and blocked roads, an AFP correspondent said.
On Tuesday, the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights expressed “deep concern at the state of social tension in Jelma.”
This showed the failure of successive governments to devise concrete solutions to unemployment and lack of development in Tunisia’s interior, the NGO said.
“Ignoring social demands” and reliance on security forces to respond was increasing tension, it warned, calling for a “radical change in economic and social policies.”
In December 2010, the self-immolation of street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi in Sidi Bouzid sparked the Arab Spring uprisings.
Since then, the marginalized region has experienced further periods of unrest fueled by unemployment and poverty.
During the last major wave of protests in January 2016, anger at the death of an unemployed man in Kasserine spread across the country and led to a curfew being imposed for several days.


Militant sentenced to 19 years for role in Benghazi attacks

Updated 24 January 2020

Militant sentenced to 19 years for role in Benghazi attacks

  • Al-Imam is the second militant convicted in the attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American personnel
  • The head of the extremist militia who directed the siege, Ahmed Abu Khattala, was convicted in 2017 on terrorism-related charges and sentenced to 22 years in prison

NEW YORK: A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a Libyan militant to more than 19 years in prison for his role in the 2012 Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans, including the US ambassador.
A jury convicted Mustafa Al-Imam last year of conspiring to support the extremist militia that launched the fiery assaults on the US compounds but deadlocked on 15 other counts.
The attacks, aimed at killing American personnel, prompted a political fracas in which Republicans accused the Obama administration of a bungled response.
Al-Imam was sentenced to a total of 236 months behind bars. He is the second militant convicted in the attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, communications specialist Sean Smith and security officers Tyrone Snowden Woods and Glen Anthony Doherty.
The head of the extremist militia who directed the siege, Ahmed Abu Khattala, was convicted in 2017 on terrorism-related charges and sentenced to 22 years in prison.
Khattala was accused of driving to the diplomatic mission on Sept. 11, 2012, and breaching the main gate with militants who attacked with assault rifles, grenades and other weapons.
The initial attack killed Stevens and Smith and set the mission ablaze. Woods and Doherty were later killed at a CIA annex.
On Thursday, federal prosecutors in Washington asked US District Judge Christopher Cooper to send a message to others contemplating attacks on Americans overseas, saying Al-Imam deserved the maximum 35-year sentence.
“In the current geopolitical environment, terrorists must understand that there are harsh consequences for attacking diplomatic posts and harming US personnel — particularly a US ambassador,” Assistant US Attorney John Cummings wrote in a court filing.
Defense attorneys said Al-Imam made a “tremendous mistake” by damaging and looting US property after the attacks. But they insisted there was no evidence he intended to harm any Americans, noting jurors could not reach a verdict on the murder charges Al-Imam faced.
“Mustafa Al-Imam is a frail, uneducated and simple man,” they wrote in a court filing. “He is not a fighter, an ideologue or a terrorist. He is a former convenience store clerk whose main loves in life are soccer and family.”
Al-Imam was tried in a civilian court despite the Trump administration’s earlier contention that such suspects are better sent to Guantanamo Bay. His arrest, five years after the attack, was the first publicly known operation since President Donald Trump took office targeting those accused of involvement in Benghazi.
Prosecutors acknowledged there was no evidence that Al-Imam “directly caused” the killings at the US compounds. But they said he aligned himself with Khattala and acted as his “eyes and ears” at the height of the attacks.
During a four-week trial in Washington, prosecutors pointed to phone records that showed Al-Imam was in the vicinity of the mission and placed an 18-minute call to Khattala during a “pivotal moment” of the attacks.
Al-Imam also entered the US compound, prosecutors said, and took sensitive material that identified the location of the CIA annex about a mile away from the mission as the evacuation point for Department of State personnel.
In interviews with law enforcement following his 2017 capture in Misrata, Libya, he admitted stealing a phone and map from the US mission.