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Tunisia probes murder claims by TV producer

TV exec Moez Ben Gharbia claims he has 'revelations' about the killing of three opposition lawmakers in 2013 and recent deady attacks

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Tunisian authorities opened a probe after a controversial television producer and presenter who said he had “revelations” about the assassinations of three opposition politicians in 2013, and attacks on a Tunis museum and seaside resort earlier this year which killed dozens, according to a source from the justice ministry.

He added that “Interior ministry sent a letter to the general prosecution attached with the video published by Moez Ben Gharbia, owner of the private channel Attasiaa TV, and therefore a judicial investigation was opened by the judicial division for the fight against terrorism.”

His video, which Al Arabiya has seen, was posted ahead of a new hearing on October 30 in the trial of 24 Tunisians accused of involvement in the killing of Chokri Belaid, an anti-hardliner opposition politician who was gunned down outside his home in Feb. 2013.

Ben Gharbia said in his video that he fled Tunisia to Switzerland, and claimed that he too had been the target of “attempted murder” a week ago because of information in his possession.

“Anyone who knows the truth about these deaths will be murdered,” Ben Gharbia said.

Radio Mosaique FM, citing Attasiaa’s executive director, said Ben Gharbia would be returning to Tunisia Sunday.

Blame game

The authorities blamed Belaid’s murder on Islamist militants.

On February 6 last year, authorities said his suspected Islamist assassin, Kamel Gadhgadhi, had been killed in a police raid.

Last December, militants linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group said they were behind the murders of both Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi, who were both assassinated in 2013.

Belaid’s family has repeatedly demanded the full truth behind his killing.

At a news conference Tuesday, his widow, Basma Khalfaoui, called on Ben Gharbia to hand over his evidence to the authorities.

On March 18, Ben Gharbia was given a six-month suspended sentence for identity theft, embezzlement and insulting the head of state.

In his video, Ben Gharbia, whose telephone was off during many calls made by Al Arabiya, said that Tarek Makki, another opposition leader who passed away in 2012, was assassinated by an “overdose of Viagra which was administered in a glass of juice.”

He added that he possesses other information and data regarding the attacks of the seaside resort of Sousse and the Bardo museum.

He asked the government to restore his protection “otherwise I will publish another video with more revelations.”

Some opposition activists called on Ben Gharbia to divulge his information.

The leftist Popular Front leader Hamma Hammami said that Ben Gharbia “opted for having a burden on his shoulders especially with regards to the information dealing with the assassinations of the front’s leaders Chokri Belaid and Mohammed Brahmi.”

Fouazi Kilani, a member of Nasiriyoun Youth, a movement that follows the pan-Arab vision of late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, said that the video is evidence that the country is still being ruled by “gangs of smugglers who get their wealth from illegal activities and have the benediction of some officials inside the interior ministry. This is why you can easily link smuggling to terrorism.”

Mouldi Cherni, whose son, a security officer, was assassinated, said to Al Arabiya News that Ben Gharbia’s video is “vain and nonsense. After my son was assassinated, I approached him as he was the anchor of a popular talk show, but he ignored me, and now he is trying to involve the political assassinations made by then ruling Troika led by Islamists, in his personal problems.”

Some analysts say that the timing of the video coincides with many pressures put on the government that “will led to radical changes within its structure” according to Hamed Mathlouthi, an independent journalist.

Some observers linked the video with the resignation of Lazhar Akremi from his post as minister of relations with parliament, who said in a public statement that “he decided to leave the government because I don’t know who is running the country.”

However, Mohsen Nebli, a media expert, says that “Ben Gharbia knows nothing more than many Tunisians. Given that Ben Gharbia is too close to Nida Tunis (the majority party in Parliament) I think that his video is important because this party is witnessing these days a very critical period.

There is a conflict between many of its personalities over leading the party founded by the very old Tunisian President Beji Caed Sebsi. Whatever would be the outcome of this matter, I would think that Ben Gharbia could be one of the winners from this buzz as he prepares to re-launch soon his channel.”


(With AFP)