Tunisian president's ex-aide faces military court

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 16, 2012 3:04 PM
Tunisian president's ex-aide faces military court

By Tarek Amara

Tunis (Reuters) - A former aide to Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki said on Thursday he had been ordered to stand trial in a military court after criticizing the army, in a case that may raise concerns about freedoms in the birthplace of Arab Spring revolts.

The country's interior ministry confirmed Ayoub Massoudi would be tried by the military and authorities had barred him from leaving the country. But a ministry official declined to give details of the charges.

Massoudi, who resigned as the president's media adviser in June, told Reuters airport guards prevented him from flying out to visit family members in Paris on Thursday.

"They told me that I was banned from traveling and that I have to appear before a martial court without giving me any other details," he said.

"There is no doubt that this is a political issue because I have criticized leaders of the army and security officials," he added.

Massoudi has publicly accused the head of the army Rachid Ammar of playing a key role in the divisive decision to extradite Muammar Gaddafi's prime minister Baghadi al-Mahmoudi to Libya.

The extradition sparked a political crisis in Tunisia. President Marzouki, a veteran human rights activist, said he had not been consulted on the decision, and had withheld his permission for the transfer for months over concerns that Mahmoudi would not receive a fair trial.

Tunisian democracy activists initially hailed the army's role in the revolution that toppled former president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali last year and inspired revolts across the Arab world.

But public support has waned following Mahmoudi's extradition.

Massoudi's case comes at a sensitive time for a Tunisian transition already marred by disputes over a new constitution and the eruption of protests by Tunisians eager to see authorities fulfill the promise of their revolution.

Secular opposition parties have accused the government, led by the Islamic Ennahda Movement, of muzzling free speech, a charge it dismisses.

(Reporting By Tarek Amara; Writing by Souhail Karam)