Tunisia NGOs file graft lawsuit against President Essebsi

16.01.2019

Anti-corruption campaigners have filed a lawsuit accusing Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi of abuse of power after he pardoned a jailed party official close to his son, a court official said on Tuesday.

Borhane Bsaies, a communications official during the rule of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, joined Essebsi's Nidaa Tounes party after the 2011 revolution that toppled Ben Ali and sparked the Arab Spring uprisings. Last October, Bsaies was sentenced to two years in prison after being found guilty of taking improper payments during Ben Ali's rule.

A Ben Ali aide with massive influence over journalists prior to the revolution, Bsaies had been accused of receiving an income both from the education ministry and from a "false job" at Tunisian telecoms firm Sotetel, which is illegal under Tunisian law. But in November, Bsaeis, who is close to Essebsi's son and Nidaa Tounes leader Hafedh Caid Essebsi, was pardoned by the president.

That prompted transparency NGO Al-Bawsala, anti-graft group I-Watch and Thameur Mekki, the editor-in-chief of news website Nawaat, to lodge a formal complaint. An administrative court confirmed to journalists that "legal action has been taken against the amnesty granted by the Tunisian president to Borhane Bsaies".

Court spokesman Imed Ghabri said the case would be examined soon, without giving further details.

The plaintiffs announced they had lodged the complaint in a joint statement released on Monday, the eighth anniversary of Ben Ali's departure into exile.

Essebsi's pardon was "motivated by partisan interests that run counter to... the values of justice, equity and good governance, in a Tunisia that is riddled with corruption," they wrote.

Tunisia's first democratically elected president, 92-year-old Essebsi has been accused of seeking to bring back certain practices that were common under Ben Ali – something he has always denied.

The North African country is set to hold parliamentary and presidential elections at the end of the year. Essebsi has yet to announce whether he will seek a second term.    (AFP)

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