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Tunisia’s Grand Mufti ‘to appear before the judiciary on corruption charges’

Published: Updated:

Controversy is brewing in Tunisia after several media outlets began reporting that the judiciary is mulling charging the country’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Othman Battikh with corruption charges.

Local media outlets reported on Saturday that the corruption charges are related to misuse of funds by Battikh during the 2015 Hajj season when the mufti was the minister of religious affairs at the time.

The latest allegations seem to widen the circle of controversy over the religious establishments in Tunisia after Habib Essid’s government at time filed a complaint with the country’s attorney general against the grand mufti.

Tunisian media reported that the complaint was accompanied by documents related to allegations that Battikh abused his power in the selection of guides who accompany the pilgrims at the expense of the Tunisian state and specifically charges of favoritism in the selection of some of them.

On January 5, 2016, an enquiry was opened at the Tribunal of First Instance of Tunis in relation to financial overspends which the minister was said to have carried out at the time of his last pilgrimage to Mecca a year before. He was replaced by Mohamed Khalil the next day as the minister of religious affairs. A week later, he was re-appointed as grand mufti by President Beji Caid Essebsi.

It is not the first time Battikh has courted controversy. Last year, he contradicted Tunisia’s president on calls for equality between men and women regarding inheritance laws in the country. The Islamic scholar would then go on to reverse his position when Essebsi made his proposal official last week.