The airport case is again in the headlines. It is the turn of the Criminal Chamber near the Military Court of Appeal to look into this case, which has dragged on since March 2021, on Friday, October 21, 2022. Regardless of the verdict, justice will not prevail in this case. Nor the defendants.
In March 2021, a Tunisian woman was banned from traveling to Tunis-Carthage airport, even though there was no court order preventing her from doing so. The procedure is common, the Ministry of the Interior has made a habit of banning Tunisians from traveling based on simple suspicions. This type of ban, called S17, was aimed at dissidents and Islamists before the revolution. After the revolution and the departure of several young people to Syria to join Daesh, the procedure was again put on the agenda and aimed at all, generally young people, who traveled to Turkey. It was after a wide controversy in the country, where the authorities were accused of laxity in allowing young people to go to war to die, killing innocent people and tarnishing Tunisia’s image internationally.
The question was how can a citizen be banned from traveling when he had committed no crime and there is no legal decision in the matter.
In the absence of a legal solution, the Home Office has updated S17 by giving itself the power to decide who travels. It was generally based on racial profiling and proximity to terrorist suspects.
The lady who was banned from traveling that day fell under this case. She ran a travel agency that issued plane tickets to several would-be terrorists. It was enough to get stuck S17.
Believing the procedure to be both illegal and unfair, deputies from the Islamist Al Karama party, elected in 2019, had stepped up and regularly intervened with the interior minister to allow people to leave. Before them, the Islamist deputies of Ennahdha did the same. Yamina Zoghlami made a name for herself in this area and even went to the airport to force the police to let travelers go.
In March 2021, the lady from the travel agency felt she could get Al Karama deputies to help her cross the borders. She called for help Seïf Eddine Makhlouf, president of the Al Karama bloc of the assembly, who immediately rushed to Tunis-Carthage airport accompanied by lawyer Mehdi Zagrouba and a number of deputies from his bloc.
He caused a real scandal that day in the terminal by shouting loudly in the lobby to the police and declaring that he will definitively end the S17 procedure. In the rush, Mehdi Zagrouba attacked a border police officer and tore off his shirt. All this was filmed live by several people, including the deputies themselves. It was these videos that allowed the courts to determine everyone’s liability afterwards.
Good to report, Seïf Eddine Makhlouf and his gang said they didn’t know the lady beforehand. That is, they came to her defense and attacked and humiliated Border Patrol agents without even investigating her and without suspecting, for a moment, that she might be a candidate for jihad.
Refusing to be intimidated and assured of their rights, the Border Patrol agents did not allow themselves to be pushed around and ejected the deputies. They also refused the lady’s ride.
That evening they were supported by their Interior Minister Hichem Mechichi, also head of government, who promised a legal follow-up to what was called the “airport attack”.
Except that here justice did not take matters into its own hands, provided the deputies enjoyed legal immunity. However, it must be remembered that the deputy’s work is carried out at the assembly and not at the airport. And that happens by summoning the minister and not by attacking the agents.
The media may cry foul after this “raid”, the prosecution has not budged!
It was only in the breath of July 25 that things took a different turn. One of the border police officers filed a complaint with the military court, which immediately took over the case and summoned the deputies.
The latter then cry foul by reminding of their immunity, the fact that the civil court has already taken charge of the case and the fact that they are civilians and will not be tried in a military court.
It is an open secret to say that the military court is under the influence of the president of the republic, who at the time vowed to end impunity.
The defendants filed a case with the Court of Cassation, which in December 2021 decided and confirmed the jurisdiction of the military court.
And this is the beginning of the judicial travesty. Because concurrently with the instruction and the military trial, the civil court did not abandon the case, and instead summoned the defendants.
Unique case in the world, the deputies and the lawyer faced two jurisdictions to be tried for the same facts!
It was enough for them to play the victim and try to make people forget the substance of the case before public opinion.
With regular lies, Al Karama’s deputies repeat that the trial is political and consists of a real settlement.
However, the videos of their “raid” are in the memory of all the Tunisians who followed it live. Everyone remembers Makhlouf’s shouts and Zargouba’s physical aggression. All testify that they tried to forcefully raise a lady who was suspected of terrorism by the Ministry of the Interior. All bear witness to the humiliation that border police officers suffer from deputies who in any case have no reason to be there and do not need to attack the executors. Everyone remembers this life-size cinema where the deputies tried to put on a show in front of the cameras and above all to advertise their law firms.
Because of the dual judicial procedure, the putschist power allowed the radical Islamist MPs to play the victims while they are the aggressors! Thanks Kais Saied!
Raouf Ben Hedi