Tunisia president faces ‘defamation’ lawsuit

The defamation complaint against President Moncef Marzouki was signed by around 80 people

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A group of Tunisians has filed a lawsuit against President Moncef Marzouki accusing him of referring to his own people as “ignorant”, a judicial source said on Monday.

“Last week, we received a defamation complaint against President Moncef Marzouki signed by around 80 people,” said the source, requesting anonymity.

One plaintiff, Moez Ali, told AFP that they had accused Marzouki of “treating Tunisians as ignorant at an official ceremony and in front of foreign ambassadors.”

The case was filed with a court in Tunis three days after Marzouki’s speech on May 26 to mark Africa Day, which marks the founding of the Organisation of African Unity, precursor of the African Union.

“I always laugh when I hear Tunisians say, when they’re going to Senegal or Burkina Faso, that they are leaving for Africa,” Marzouki said in his speech, published on the presidency’s official Facebook page.

“I laugh because I consider that these comments reflect their deep ignorance of the fact that this term ‘Ifriguia’, which gave its name to the African continent, is an Amazigh (Berber) word signifying northwest Tunisia,” he said.

The text of the lawsuit, which AFP saw a copy of, charged that Marzouki’s remarks were “defamatory... and constituted an insult to others.”

Ali said it was “unacceptable” that the president, who represents the Tunisian people, “allows himself to describe them as ignorant, especially in front of foreign guests.”

He said 206 plaintiffs were party to the lawsuit, to which Marzouki’s office has not yet responded.

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