Tunisia to offer amnesty to jihadists not convicted of murder

President Moncef Marzouki gave no further details of the proposed amnesty or when the draft law would be submitted to parliament

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Tunisia’s president promised an amnesty Tuesday for jihadists who disarm and who have not been convicted of murder, as he toured a border area where troops are hunting al-Qaeda-linked militants.

“We decided at the last security council meeting that there will be an amnesty and reconciliation law for those without blood on their hands -- they still have a place among our people,” President Moncef Marzouki told soldiers taking part in the operation on Mount Chaambi, near the Algerian border.

“We want to open the door of reconciliation to those who surrender their arms and return to the fold of their country,” Marzouki said in the speech released by his office.

Addressing himself to the jihadists, the president said: “Lay down your weapons, come down (from the mountain) and return to your people.”

Marzouki gave no further details of the proposed amnesty or when the draft law would be submitted to parliament.

Under the current anti-terrorism law, adopted in 2003 under now toppled strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, heavy prison sentences can be handed to anyone linked to a banned group, whether or not the suspect is convicted of acts of violence.

Since late 2012, security forces have been battling dozens of militants hiding out in the remote Mount Chaambi region, where eight soldiers were killed in an ambush last July.

The authorities say the militants are linked to al-Qaeda.

Last year, more than 20 security personnel were killed in what the government says were “terrorism-related incidents.” Two opposition politicians were also assassinated in separate attacks that plunged the country into crisis.

Last month, the authorities designated Mount Chaambi and neighbouring mountain districts a closed military zone, and warned of the growing threat posed by “terrorist organisations” based in them.

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