6 ème année, N° 1864 du 27.06.2005
قدس برس: منظمات حقوقية تستنكر إعادة محاكمة مراسل « قدس برس » في تونس
الحياة: شبكة المنظمات الأهلية العربية تناشد من بيروت الحكومة التونسية رفع القيود عن «معهد حقوق الإنسان»
رويترز: تونس تستضيف مؤتمرا دوليا للاتصالات
إدريس النواس: بين محمد فوراتي ومحمد اللجمي – الأوراق المكشوفة
د. خـالد الطراولي: في المهجر والداخل والقيادة وأشياء أخرى…
الهادي بريك: حصاد البورقيبية المر أو كارثة التبني المحرم
محمد شقرون: متابعات و توضيح
تركي علي الربيعو: نحو منهج جديد للحركة الإسلامية… الغنوشي يدعو إلى حلف فضول جديد؟
القدس العربي: هتفوا بسقوط الرئيس مبارك والعادلي: مصر: المئات يتظاهرون لاول مرة امام وزارة الداخلية والالاف من قوات الشرطة تنهال عليهم بالعصي
رويترز: الجزائر تفصل نهائيا في إلغاء الشريعة من التعليم الثانوي رويترز: ليبيا تتلف 1700 كيلوجرام من الهيروين والحشيش
Syndicat des Journalistes Tunisiens: Communiqué Temoignage du ch. R. Ghannouchi dans l’affaire qui l’a oppose à « El-Eouni, et al Arab publishing house »
Omar Khayyâm: Amm Ali, l’ermite de Moknine AP: Algérie: manoeuvres maritimes exercices algéro-américains en haute mer
Pour afficher les caractères arabes suivre la démarche suivante : Affichage / Codage / Arabe ( Windows )
To read arabic text click on the View then Encoding then Arabic (Windows).
Avis aux médias
Alternatives, Amnistie internationale (section canadienne francophone), l’Association des droits de la personne au Maghreb (ADPM), la Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ), le Centre québécois du PEN International, la Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), Droits et Démocratie, la Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ), Journalistes canadiens pour la liberté d’expression (CJFE), la Ligue des droits et libertés, PEN Canada et Reporters sans frontières (RSF)
Vous invite à un
« Lâcher de ballons pour la libération de quelque 532 prisonniers d’opinion en Tunisie »
Le 28 juin 2005, la cinquième campagne internationale pour une amnistie générale en Tunisie, avec un lâcher de ballons devant le Consulat de Tunisie à Montréal, pour exiger la libération de quelque 532 prisonniers d’opinion en Tunisie en présence de Me Saida Akrimi, secrétaire générale et Me Samir Dilou, vice-président de l’Association Internationale de Soutien des Prisonniers Politiques (AISPP)
Date : le mardi 28 juin 2005
Heure : 12h00 à 13h00
Lieu : Devant le Consulat de Tunisie à Montréal, 511, Place d’arme
Alternatives, Amnistie internationale (section canadienne francophone), l’Association des droits de la personne au Maghreb (ADPM), la Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ), le Centre québécois du PEN International, la Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), Droits et Démocratie, la Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ), Journalistes canadiens pour la liberté d’expression (CJFE), la Ligue des droits et libertés, PEN Canada et Reporters sans frontières (RSF)
Vous invite à une conférence-débat
« Pour la libération de quelque 532 prisonniers d’opinion en Tunisie »
Me Saida Akrimi, secrétaire générale
Me Samir Dilou, vice-président
l’Association Internationale de Soutien des Prisonniers Politiques (AISPP)
Le 29 juin 2005 à 19 h
À la Maison de la coopération à Québec
155, Charest Est, Salle 3
Le 30 juin 2005 à 19 heures
Au Centre St-Pierre de Montréal
1212 rue Panet, Salle 200
Tel : (418) 521-4000
رسالة عرفان من المناضل البطل لطفي العمدوني
أشكر كل فرسان الحرية والأقلام المؤمنة بكرامة الإنسان وحقه في أن يعيش كما يحق له أن يعيش… كلّ المساجين وأنا واحد منهم بدون هذه المنظمات المدافعة عنّا وبدون رجالات الرأي الصادعين بالحقيقة… نحن بدونكم عشنا يتامى والحيوانات أوفر منّا كرامة. ويوم سمعنا أصواتكم المؤمنة بإنسانيتنا أصبح للحياة طعم جديد عامر بالأمل في أن ننال كلّ ما هو حق لنا مهما طال الزمن. أنا عاجز عن الشكر لكلّ من آمن بالدفاع عن الحقّ ولقد غيّرتم حياتنا حقا… فشكرا شكرا والسلام.
(المصدر: موقع نهضة.نت بتاريخ 27 جوان 2005 على الساعة 7 و 01 دقيقة مساء بتوقيت لندن)
منظمات حقوقية تستنكر إعادة محاكمة مراسل « قدس برس » في تونس
تونس – خدمة قدس برس
استنكرت منظمات حقوقية وأخرى مدافعة عن حقوق الصحافيين إعادة محاكمة الصحافي محمد فوراتي، مراسل وكالة « قدس برس » إنترناشيونال في الساحة التونسية، بسبب نشاطه الصحافي، بعد إقرار إعادة محاكمته يوم الأربعاء القادم، للمرة الثالثة على التوالي، رغم حكم القضاء لصالحه بعدم سماع الدعوى مرتين متتابعتين.
فقد استنكرت نقابة الصحافيين التونسيين إعادة محاكمة الصحافي فوراتي، معتبرة محاكمته « استهدافا للأقلام الحرة ». وقالت النقابة في بيان أرسلت نسخة منه إلى وكالة « قدس برس » إنها تعبر عن استنكارها لإعادة المحاكمة، وإنها « تطالب بالوقف الفوري للتتبعات القضائية ضد الزميل محمد فوراتي »، واصفة محاكمته بأنها « استهداف للأقلام الحرّة وتضييق على الصحفيين ».
في حين قال المجلس الوطني للحريات إن المحاكمة هي استخدام للقضاء « لتخويف الأصوات الحرة وإسكاتها ». وأشاد بيان صادر عن المجلس بأداء الصحافي فوراتي، مشيرا إلى أنه « برز في السنوات الأخيرة بوصفه أحد الأقلام الحرة والمستقلّة في الصحافة التونسية ». وقد ساهم بكتاباته في الأشهر الأخيرة في التحسيس بقضية المحامي محمد عبّو، والوقوف إلى جانب تحركات المحامين وكشف ملابسات معركة جمعية القضاة التونسيين من أجل استقلاليتها »، كما قال البيان.
في حين قال بيان صادر عن المرصد الوطني لحرية الصحافة والإبداع والنشر في تونس إن الدعوى القضائية المرفوعة مجددا ضد الصحافي فوراتي هي محاولة للحد من نشاطه « الصحفي وتخويفه بزجّه في قضايا لا علاقة له بها ».
وطالب المجلس « السلطات التونسية بغلق ملف التتبع القضائي الجاري ضدّه، وإيقاف المحاصرة المضروبة على الحريات الصحفية والأقلام والحرة في تونس ».
من ناحيتها قالت مجلة « أقلام أون لاين » الثقافية التونسية، إنها فوجئت بإعادة محاكمة فوراتي، وأنها تعتبر « إعادة المحاكمة اعتداء جديدا على حرية التعبير والنشر، وسعيا من السلطة التونسية لقصف قلم صحافي متميز، اختير العام الماضي أفضل صحفي في تونس، بالنظر لمهنيته العالية، وموضوعيته في تغطية الأخبار التونسية، واهتمامه بالحريات وحقوق الإنسان ».
(المصدر: وكالة قدس برس إنترناشيونال بتاريخ 27 جوان 2005)
شبكة المنظمات الأهلية العربية تناشد من بيروت الحكومة التونسية رفع القيود عن «معهد حقوق الإنسان»
تونس تستضيف مؤتمرا دوليا للاتصالات
بين محمد فوراتي ومحمد اللجمي:
بقلم إدريس النواس
ما ألعن المرحلة.. ما أظلم المقبرة.. ما أسوأ ما يمر بنا فيها وكأننا لسنا في بلدنا الذي من حقنا العيش فيه وإنما ضيوفا غير مرغوب فيهم.. قمع واضطهاد وحقوق مسلوبة ومفاهيم مقلوبة.. وتونس صارت في أيديهم بقرة حلوبا
!. والعجائب السبع تراها في تونس العهد السعيد.. حمامة الحق كسيرة جريحة، وسيف الباطل يعلو ولا يعلى عليه في العهد » المبارك » » اللّي يبرّك ويطيّح « ، وكأن الله خلقنا عبيدا لدى حضرة جنابهم: المكرة اللئام جنود الظلام فارغي العقول رديء المنهج، المرضى المعقدين الذين رمت بهم الأيام السعيدة وأخطائها البليدة فنصبتهم قوادا علينا، لمجرّد أنهم » قوادة » فينا.
… تفتح الصفحة الجديدة.. من سجّل المظالم العديدة.. فتجد اسما آخر، ومحمدا جديدا.. بعد محمد عبو يطاله سياط الطاغوت، ومكائده المكشوفة.. و « ماكينة » سحقه ومحقه الملهوفة.. والمحمّد الجديد هذه المرة هو الصحفي محمد الفوراتي.
وكأن هؤلاء الأغبياء الذين يكيدون كيدا ويمكرون.. ويمكر الله والله خير الماكرين، لهم مشكلة ضمن عقدهم الكثيرة مع اسم محمد، بعد أن أثبتوا لأكثر من 18 حولا أنهم أعداء من الدرجة الأولى لكل أمة محمد التي قدر لها الله أن تعيش في هذا البلد في زمانهم » البالوني » اللعين السمج السقيم.
… من يقف وراء المكيدة الجديدة للمحمّد الجديد ؟ ومن أين تأتي الضربات ؟ من أي مكان من وزارة العدل وحقوق الإنسان بالتحديد، لكل من تحدثه نفسه الأمارة بالسوء بحرية الكلمة والتعبير.
هل الصدفة وحدها، وما ألعنها من صدفة أن يكون وراء كل ضربة واحد خفيّ في الوزارة إسمه » محمد » أيضا. هو نفس محمد الذي مرّرت تحت يديه البروفة الأخيرة لمكيدة كبرى اسمها » المحاكمة العادلة » للأستاذ محمد عبو ذات ربيع أسود وعديد المحاكمات الأخرى. فهل تسمعون يا سادة يا كرام بعبقري زمانه أخينا العزيز الرجل » الجنتلمان » ( الله يرحمك يا شيخ إمام ) محمد اللجمي ؟
محمد اللجمي هذا، لمن لا يعرفه منكم ، هو رجل مبروك من فرسان العهد المبارك، يشتغل » برّاكة » في وزارة العدل ( » براكة » لا نعني بها هنا كشك وإنما نعني بها » ماكينة » تبريك » المناوئين )، والله لا يمتعنا يوما ببركاته، إنّه يشتغل ببساطة: وكيل الدولة العام مدير المصالح العدلية ؟ أي أنه باختصار: هو الكلّ في الكلّ. ولا تحدثني عنه عندما علينا يهل…
… وصاحبنا » الجنتلمان » بيديه » كجّة » كبيرة من المفاتيح و » شد عندك « : بيده مفتاح ترقية القضاة فهو من يرقّي القاضي الذي يرضى عنه ويمنع الترقية طبعا عن الذي دعت عليه أمّه بالشرّ، وبيده أيضا مفتاح آخر اسمه النُقل، وبيده مفتاح آخر اسمه التعيينات لكل قضيّة على حدة، أي أن الذي كتب الله له أن يغضب منه أخونا » الجنتلمان « ، فسوف يعيّن له يومها قاضيا على مقاسه هو، يكون من فئة محرز الهمامي أو بالاحرى محرز بوقا كما جاء في رواية أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه ( و « البوقا » خير من » السيفن آب » عند سي اللجمي )، وبما ان القاضي المعين من هذا النوع فإن الحكم سيكون بدوره يومها من نفس النوع: أي من نوع » لجمي
Plus » و » نوّحي يا مباركة » على العهد المبارك!.
القضاة جميعا يعرفون جيّدا اسم محمد اللجمي ولا ينساه أحد منهم سواء المتضررين من » بركاته » أو المستفيدين، فكلّ منهم له معه حكاية حتى ولو لم تكن العلاقة مباشرة… بركاته على الجميع من محاكم الشمال إلى محاكم الجنوب.. على الجميع قضاة ومحامين ومتقاضين
! » شايل اللّه يا سيدي اللجمي » الذي أتى في القرنين الماضيين ليحل محلّ الولي الصالح الشهير » سيدي اللخمي « .
إنه رجل الظلّ الذي يقدر على تغيير حركة الشمس في وزارة العدل من الشرق إلى الغرب والعكس صحيح. وقد اعطت سلطات العهد المبارك كل هذه المفاتيح في يده حتى يكون عصاها التي تعاقب كلّ من عصى من القضاة.
وبفضل بركات » سيدي اللجمي » ظل السواد الأعظم من قضاة البلاد ولسنوات طويلة متمسكين بالصمت على كل المهازل التي شهدها ومازال أخطر قطاع في الحياة المدنيّة للبلد. وكيف لا يصمتون والعصا الغليظة ل » سيدي اللجمي » لا تعرف الرحمة في زمن الزحمة والذي يعترض منهم يخسر الخبز وقبله » اللحمة «
» سيدي اللجمي » هذا » قالولو تعرفشي العلم قالهم نزيد فيه » فقد أضاف للنشاط المكلّف به لصالح السلطات نشاطا آخر لصالحه هو شخصيا. وصمتوا عليه طبعا لأنه » متاعهم » فقد صار مع الزمن، المتحرش الجنسي رقم واحد في وزارة العدل بالقاضيات المغلوبات على أمرهنّ كما أنه صار « المهندس المركزي » في الوزارة لكل الصفقات الرخيصة لبيع الأحكام. وحاولوا أن تتثبتوا من أملاكه ومحتويات أرصدته المالية » توّا أمخاخكم تاقف » ولسان حالكم يردد: ياعيني على الأطيان…وإنه لعمري ليس بشرا بل جان.
ولكن لكلّ زمان آذان كما يقال. ففي السنتين الأخيرتين هناك دماء جديدة بدأت تعبّر عن نفسها في سلك القضاء. ومجموعة لا بأس بها من القضاة الشرفاء النزهاء بدؤوا يرفعون صوتهم قائلين: .. لا للتيار ولا أيضا » لسيدي اللجمي » » الطيارة » لا للمهازل.. لا للتنازل.. لا لتدنيس سلك القضاء وتحويله إلى سيف للبلاء… قالوا لا وتمسّكوا بخطّ استقلالية القضاء وحقوق أخرى كقانون يضمن الترقية الآلية للقاضي والنقلة الاختيارية ويقطع مع عهد التعيينات المشبوهة لقضاة بعينهم لقضايا بعينها..
عبرت الحساسية الجديدة عن نفسها وتجاوب معها القضاة التونسيون من شمال البلاد إلى جنوبها. وصعدت على دفة الهيكل المهني الوحيد لهذا السلك الحساس: جمعية القضاة التونسيين، وذلك في انتخابات ديمقراطية، وانتخبهم السواد الأعظم فكان صوت قائد هذه المجموعة أحمد الرحموني هو الغالب على النتائج.
و بدأت الجمعية نشاطها بعد الانتخابات، و بدأت تصدر البيانات المطالبة بحماية القاضي التونسي بعد سنوات، ملمّحة بين السطور إلى طغيان » سي اللجمي » وبركاته، والمطالبة بحقوق دنيا وبحماية القطاع من الدنس ومن المضايقة، ومن التدجين، كان كل هذا بصوت متزّن لطيف مسالم. لكن هل يرضي « سيدي اللجمي » ؟ طبعا لا.
فقد ردّ على الفور وأرسل سريعا مجموعة من شركائه في » البيزنس » الجميل والمنهج العليل إلى مدينة الحمامات حيث كان المجلس الوطني لجمعية القضاة سينعقد ( 12 جوان 2005 ).. دخلوا رغم أنهم ليسوا أعضاء بالمجلس الوطني ولم يحترموا القانون مع انهم رجال قانون..دخلوا دخول » الباندية » وفعلوا أفعال » الباندية » ومنعوا المجلس من الانعقاد بأساليب « الباندية «
كان مشهدا مخجلا قذرا لم يترددوا في رسمه، ولماذا يترددون في رسمه أصلا وممن سيخافون العقاب والذي عاقب هو نفسه من أرسلهم ؟ كانت فضيحة بحق. فلأول مرة يخرج » سيدي اللجمي » من منطقة الظلّ ليظهر في النور، ويشن حربا على المكتب التنفيذي المنتخب لجمعية القضاة » عيني عينك » أمام الملأ من خلال جماعته وأخطبوته ضاربا عرض الحائط بمبدا استقلالية الجمعيات عن الإدارة.
من مساوئ الصدف يومها أن كان هناك صحفي واحد شاهد على الفضيحة، صحفي واحد أحضرته الأقدار للمتابعة ولكنه لم يكن يعرف أن الأقدار كانت تعدّ له بعد أن أدلى بشهادته أن يكون ضحية جديدة من ضحايا » سيدي اللجمي « .
فقد نقل خبر تأجيل المجلس الوطني من خلا وكالة » أنباء قدس برس » ومن خلال مقال إخباري على أعمدة جريدة » الموقف » وفي صفحتها الأولى تماما مثلما يفعل كل صحفي نزيه ينقل الحقيقة كما شاهدها.
اغتاظ » سيدي اللجمي » كثيرا خاصة أن الصحفي نشر أسماء » الباندية » الذين منعوا المجلس الوطني من الانعقاد وكان من بينهم أقرب المقربين ل » سيدي اللجمي « . إنه عضده الأيمن « سيدي محمد الصالح بن حسين مساعد الوكيل العام مساعد مدير المصالح العدليّة » فكيف لا تريدون من » سيدي اللجمي » أن لا يغضب ؟
الصحفي الذي نعني هو محمد الفوراتي و لأنه اغضب » سيدي اللجمي » وما أدراك و لأنه مازال في نيته أن يغضبه بما أن أشواط المعركة بين جماعة » سيدي اللجمي » والمكتب التنفيذي متواصلة. وبما أن الفوراتي ينوي أن يظل الشاهد الأمين على الأساليب القذرة التي نوي استخدامها الفريق الاول في المعركة ولأن « سيدي اللجمي » هو سلطان زمانه وعنتر زمانه وشمشون زمانه وبيده كل المفاتيح وكل السيوف فلم يفكّر طويلا في كيفية الاستراحة من الشاهد المشاغب. ماذا فعل ؟ بسرعة نقّب في ملفات الوزارة فوجد أن الفوراتي هذا، نال حكما بالبراءة في ثلاث مناسبات متوالية في قضية مضحكة. فكّر مليا ثم قال في نفسه » إحنا ظلمنا ظلمنا » وعملنا كل الأعاجيب التي شهدها القضاء التونسي فلماذا إذن لا نبتكر أعجوبة جديدة وهي أن نعيد محاكمة متهم نال البراءة في كل مراحل التقاضي.. نعيد التعقيب إلى الاستئناف ونجازيه بحكم على قدر مقالاته، وهكذا نرتاح ونريح …
إنها مهزلة جديدة ولكن فاعل المهزلة ومهندسها الخفي لا تهمه المهازل مادام وجوده في الدنيا هو شخصيا في حكم المهزلة. سوف يحاكم » سيدي اللجمي » محمد فوراتي البريء ليمنعه من دوره كشاهد على الاعتداءات القادمة التي ينوي » سيدي اللجمي » و سيدي البشير » التكاري ارتكابها علنا في حق جمعية القضاة. فهو ينوي إرسال جماعة » الباندية » ليمنعوا بقوة » البونية » لا بقوة القانون أشغال جلسة 3 جويلية لجمعية مرخص لها قانونا لها حرمتها وقدسيتها.
يريد سجن شاهد الحق محمد فوراتي حتى لا يبق صوت واحد ينقل للعالم ما سيجري لرئيس الجمعية و أعضاء المكتب التنفيذي المنتخبين يوم 3 جويلة، والذي بالتأكيد سوف يذكرنا بما أقترف في حق صحافيين وصحافيات مصريات يوم الاستفتاء داخل نقابتهم وفي بيتهم كما يقال.
سوف يشير » سيدي اللجمي » على جماعته بإفساد الجلسة العامة للقضاة ويأمر بإقامة جلسة عامة بديلة لمجموعة خسرت الانتخابات الحرة فعلا وباعترافها لتقيم بعد ذلك انتخابات وهمية. وتصعد هي وتعترف بها السلطات في إلغاء صريح لوجود مكتب تنفيذي قانوني ومنتخب
إنها فضيحة الفضائح التي ينوون فعلها ولذلك لم يشاؤوا البتة للصحفي النزيه محمد الفوراتي ان يكون شاهدا عليها فكيف ننتظر منهم أن يسمحوا لصحفي نزيه بان يكون شاهدا على فضيحة تدينهم في الداخل والخارج.
هل هذا هو قانون الجمعيات يا عهدنا المبارك ؟ هل هذه هي الديمقراطية يا « سيدي البشير » ويا » سيدي اللجمي » ؟
ولكن إنكم نسيتم مسالة بسيطة للغاية في حساباتكم.. نسيتم ببساطة: أن فوراتي هذا ليس الشاهد الوحيد الذي برمج مواكبة جلسة يوم 3 جويلية ليكشفكم، فهناك صحافيون آخرون نزهاء في البلد قادمون رغم انفكم ونسيتم أن فبرتكم لقضية باطلة لصحفي حرّ لن يريحكم منه كما تظنون، بل على العكس هو أمر سيورطكم في بلاء عظيم…ستكتب عنكم كلّ أقلام الدنيا، وعن جريمة بشعة تريدون ارتكابها في حق صحفي حرّ، جريمة قمع واضطهاد وسلب وسجن
! لن يصمت عليكم أحد يا سادة، ولن تهنؤوا في مقاعدكم الوثيرة…سوف نشعل عليكم الدنيا.. وإنها الحرب ..و أهلا بالمعارك. والصحفي الحر لن تذهب حريته سدى لو سلبتمونه إياها… وجربوا إن شئتم مواصلة نهج التظليل والتلفيق والمغالطة والظلم البواح فلن تنتجوا إلا جنودا جددا و أبطالا جددا وصحفيين جددا ومحامين جددا وقضاة جددا سيكونون لكم بالمرصاد … جربوا إن شئتم و ستكونون من النادمين.
وإن غدا لناظره قريب
اللقاء الإصلاحي الديمقراطي (5)
تلك تساؤلاتكم المشروعة وهذه إجاباتنا(5)…
الجــــزء الخامس : في المهجر والداخل والقيادة وأشياء أخرى…
د. خــالد الطراولي
الكلمة فعل والفعل أمانة
« إن الكلمة لمن روح القدس، إنها تسهم إلى حد بعيد في خلق الظاهرة الاجتماعية، فهي ذات وقع في ضمير الفرد شديد، إذ تدخل إلى سويداء قلبه فتستقر معانيها فيه لتحوله إلى إنسان ذي مبدأ ورسالة » هذه هي الكلمة عند مالك بن نبي [] وهي الكلمة الصادقة ودورها الحضاري التي يحملها الخطاب السليم والخطاب الشفاف والخطاب الواحد وغير الازدواجي، والتي تستطيع أن تبني مشروعا وعقلية وثقافة وسلوكا.
لن يعيش خطاب « اللقاء الإصلاحي الديمقراطي » السراديب والكهوف، لن يكون قمريا خافتا يهاب الرأي الآخر ويفضل المشي حذو الحائط مسكنة أو تهربا، سوف يكون الرباط الذي يجمعه مع الشعب حريريا ناصعا واضحا شفافا..، لن نغلق الأبواب، ولن نغمس الرؤوس في الرمال، ولكنه عهد علينا أن نكون واضحين، حتى لا نبني على مناورة، ولا نبني على القيل والقال، ولا نبني على ردات الأفعال، ولا نبني في الضباب، ولا نبني في الدهاليز.. وسوف تبقى الكلمة أمانة نحملها في جعابنا، ونرددها في مجالسنا وتطبع مشروعنا وذواتنا حتى نلقى الله عليها.
في البداية كان « اللقاء » وكان التأسيس…
كما ذكرنا في البيان التأسيسي ونعيده تذكيرا وتأكيدا، أن فكرة « اللقــاء » انطلقت منذ سنة 2003 بين مجموعة من وطنيي المهجر الذين عايشوا تجربة النضال والتنظم، وحملوا همّ الأوطان، ودفعوا غاليا التمسك بتلابيب الحرية، من منافي وعزلة وفرقة الأمهات والآباء والعشيرة..، كانت الانطلاقة تفكيرا في انحباس القلم الفكري الإسلامي التونسي وتواضع انتاجه أو عدمه، ومحاولة تجاوزه عبر تأسيس منتدى سياسي ومنبر فكري، لكن الحوارات أبرزت تشكل رأيين مثّل أحدهما التركيز على أولوية مركز البحث ومدى أهميته في البناء النظري، وارتأت مجموعة أخرى المضي في بناء وعاء سياسي للفكرة.
بقيت الفكرة منحصرة في هذه المجموعة ولم تطأ برأسها خارجا أبدا إلى أواخر سنة 2004، حيث ارتأى بعضنا أن يحدث بها بعض الناس التي تربطهم بهم علاقة فكرية أو أسرية وذلك إخلاصا منا حتى لا يصدمون حين الإعلان عن هذا الوليد ولا يظنون بنا الظنون، فكان الحديث إعلاما بالمشروع الذي مر على مخاضه أكثر من سنة.
حملت هذه المجموعة الفكرة بنسب متفاوتة، وعند القرار بالخروج إلى العلن وطرح البيان التأسيسي، خيّر بعضهم البقاء خارج الإطار، وعدم الظهور الآني تحت الأضواء الكاشفة، لأسباب عدة في انتظار جلاء بعض العراقيل…
والوضوح والصدق اللذان يلزماني أمام الله وأمام الشعب يجعلاني أتحدث عن بقاء اضطراري نفسي، وموضوعي في بعض الأحيان، ولكل تبريراته التي أتفهمها في البقاء الآني وراء الستار، ولست متعجلا في خروجهم إلى الساحة إن واصلوا المشوار!
إن قبضة التحزب كبيرة وشديدة ولا شك، وهي قبضة يجب تفهمها والحلم بصاحبها، فليس سهلا أن يغادر أناس موقعا أو بيتا حمل تاريخهم وتواجدهم، حمل حلوهم ومرهم، حمل علاقات فردية وأسرية، تولد عنها رباط نفسي عميق قارب محطات الإيمان، ليس بالسهل تفكيكه أو حتى تخفيفه، لذلك فإني أقبل هذا الترقب وأتفهمه، على أمل أن يقع تجاوز هذا الحاجز النفسي في القريب.
إن مشروع « اللقــاء » يبقى فكرة جماعية تداول على نضجها وصياغتها ديمقراطيا وبنسب مختلفة ثلة من أبناء هذا الوطن من منافيهم ومهاجرهم، ووصلوا في نهاية تشاورهم إلى طرح تصور بديل لحياة أفضل لهذا الشعب الأبي، عمادها رفاهة الروح والجسد للفرد والمجموعة.
حول الداخل والمهجر
لم يكن المهجر اختيارا في حياتنا، غادر أغلبنا الأوطان اضطرارا، واستقر اضطرارا، وعاش حياة المنافي والمهاجر اضطرارا، ولم يخرج مشروع « اللقــاء » عن هذه الحالة الخاصة، كان المهجر موطن من لا موطن له، وكانت هذه البلاد الطيبة إطارا لاستنشاق نسائم الحرية، على نسبيتها، وبُني المشروع في غير أهله وعلى أرض غير أرضه، ولكنه في إطار حر ومن قبل أحرار، فكان المهجر تعويضا للمفقود وأملا في المنشود، وستبقى هذه البلاد ملاذا للفكرة وأصحابها حتى يعود الإطار الداخلي سليما معافى يقبل التعدد ولا يناوئ غيره، سوف يبقى المهجر استثناء حتى تشرق شمس الحرية من جديد على الوطن الحبيب.
لا نخفيكم أن مجال الحركة وجماهيرها كان في البداية منحصرا في الإطار المهجري « الكهولي » من أصحاب المنافي، ممن يعلونا شرف التوجه إليهم خاصة، فهؤلاء الأفاضل يمثلون حالة خاصة وفريدة ومتنوعة، منهم من استوطن الديار وكثرت عياله ومشاغله وحبذ الانسحاب بصمت، ومنهم من حمل هما وانتماء ولا يسعى إلى البحث عن المزيد، فالتاريخ والأسرة والعادة حسموا الموقف وزيادة، ومنهم من يحمل رجاء مدفونا وأملا خائبا، يرمق السماء والأرض وينتظر الساعي كل يوم وليلة، ومنهم من يحمل ترددا واضحا في كل حياته الخاصة والعامة، فلا هو هنا ولا هو هناك، ولا هو معك ولا هو ضدك، خدمه الضباب حينا ولعله يخدمه في ما بقى!
هؤلاء جميعا نحيّ فيهم منفاهم وصبرهم ومصابرتهم، ولن ينساهم تاريخ البلاد ولن ينساهم « اللقاء » في مشواره الطويل فهم عماد من أعمدته. وجمهور « اللقــاء » أوسع وأشمل… فاللقــاء فكرة ومشروع، اللقاء يريد البناء مع أهل البناء وهم كثير!
في مرحلة التأسيس جاءتنا بعض المطالب للانتماء وقد رددنا عليها ونعيدها اليوم طالبين من الإخوة والأخوات ترقب إنشاء الموقع على الشبكة وتجلي بعض الثنايا حتى تطرح شروط الانتماء بكل وضوح وشفافية.
جمهور « اللقـــاء » مهجري وداخلي، ونحن نعتقد أن الانترنت وعالم المعلومة المشاهدة يحمل دورا كبيرا ومؤثرا ومتعاظما في الأشهر والسنوات القادمة، وأن تقارب الأسواق والبلدان والمجموعات سوف يزداد ولا يقل.
إن عهد الانفراد في الظلمة ومن وراء الأسترة الحديدية قد ولى وانتهى، وأن غلق منافذ الأرض لن يحول دون فتح منافذ السماء، ومهما أتقن الجور وسائل التعتيم والتهميش والتعسف فإن رياح التغيير لن تغير اتجاهها ولا وجهتها وأن عالم الانترنت يمكن أن يمثل نافذة عميقة لللإتصال رغم محدوديتها في البداية على أن تتوسع لاحقا.
ورغم أن الإصلاح والتغيير مسار وعملية تستوجب الملامسة العينية ومعايشة الواقع عن قرب، فإن للضرورات أحكامها، وعندما تنغلق الأبواب وتنسدّ الآفاق فإنك أمام خيارين لا ثالث لهما، إما العمل بما لديك من أدوات ووسائل وإطار ومحيط، وإما الانسحاب والانتظار والتواكل والمراهنة؟..
ولقد خيّرنا في « اللقــاء » الحراك على السكون، والمواجهة على الموادعة، والبناء على الهدم، حتى من وراء الحدود وعلى أرض غير أرضنا وسماء غير سمائنا… صلتنا الوحيدة اليوم بالداخل هي الانترنت والمجلات الورقية والالكترونية والفضائيات،
و » اللقاء الإصلاحي الديمقراطي » مشروع وطني يحمل محطات ومراحل، انطلقت من المهجر لتحط رحالها في الداخل بإذن الله، وبين هذا وذاك سعة من البناء والتأسيس والعمل. إن بناء الفكرة وإعادة تشكيل العقلية السياسية للمواطن التونسي، والحصول على ثقته واطمئنانه إلى مصداقيتنا وشرعيتنا وجديتنا، هو التحدي الكبير الذي نحمله في يومنا وليلنا ويقض مضاجعنا ويحمّلنا مسؤولية عظيمة أمام الله وأمام هذا الشعب العزيز.
إن ما يخفف علينا ضخامة التحدي وكثرة المضيقات، هو اعتقادنا بأن العمل السوي والبناء السليم لا يمكن أن يؤتي أكله كاملا مستساغا في إطار من الاستبداد والإقصاء، ويبقى العمل داخله استثناء حتى يحدث التغيير، فالحرية هي المجال الصحيح والأسلم للإبداع. من هذه الزاوية يمكن أن يشكّل المهجر هذه النافذة الحرة نسبيا، لمساندة الإصلاح والتغيير الداخلي، والمساهمة مدنيا في تطوير العقول والتوجهات، وسوف نبقى رابضين على هذه النافذة حتى ينفتح الباب، ونحن نظن أن الانتظار لن يطول.
والتجربة الحقوقية رائدة ومعبرة في هذا المجال، حيث التصق الفعل الخارجي بالفعل الداخلي ليساهم في رج الواقع الحقوقي التونسي ولو ببطء، مما جعل المشهد الداخلي يعيش بين الحين والآخر ومضات مشرقة، جاءت نتيجة تلازم هذين المحورين وتواجدهما. فلولا الخارج ما تقدم الداخل، ولولا الداخل لما وجد الخارج مجالا للتحرك. فانسداد محور لا يعني موت المشهد، ولكن تواصلا بآليات جديدة ورجال آخرين وإطار ومواقع مختلفة.
إن « اللقاء الإصلاحي الديمقراطي« ، يبقى مشروعا وطنيا يسعى جاهدا إلى بلورة رؤية إصلاحية وبرنامج للتغيير المدني داخل البلاد، وهو يعلم أن الوجود السليم والأنجع يكون داخل الوطن، لكن الظروف المحيطة التي تعكس حالة الانفراد والإقصاء تضعه يعيش حالة الاستثناء في بناء مشروعه، وهو عازم على عدم ترك أي طريق أو فرصة سلمية وسليمة لارتباطه المباشر مع الداخل، وملامسة أهله من أبناء الوطن ومعايشة يومهم وليلهم، وإن كان يعيش همومهم وأحلامهم ويحمل آمالهم وهو من وراء الحدود.
ملاحظة : لمراسلة « »اللقــاء الإصلاحي الديمقراطي » في انتظار إنشاء الموقع الخاص للحركة الذي لن يتأخر ظهوره بإذن الله، يستطيع الإخوة والأخوات استعمال البريد الكتروني التالي :
 مالك بن نبي « شروط النهضة » دار الفكر سورية، الطبعة الرابعة 1987، ص:24.
حصاد البورقيبية المر أو كارثة التبني المحرم
متابعة لــ » متابعات »
تحت عنوان » جدلية العلاقة بين النضالين الوطني والاجتماعي في تاريخ الاتحاد العام التونسي للشغل »، وبمناسبة الذكرى الخمسين لاغتيال الزعيم النقابي الوطني فرحات حشاد، أصدر،خلال سنة 2004، قسم الدراسات والتوثيق التابع لـلمنظمة النقابية، عددا خاصا من سلسلة « رؤى عمالية « ، وذلك » بهدف إحياء الذاكرة الوطنية والوقوف عند العديد من المحطات التي ميزت الحركة النقابية التونسية منذ مطلع القرن الماضي ».
وقد احتوى هذا العدد على ثلاث فصول تم تزويعها إلى أربعة أبواب؛ إذ تركزت العناية في كل باب على فترة زمنية تم تحديدها كما يلي:
ففي الباب الأول تناول عبد السلام حميدة « موضوع الحركة النقابية من التأسيس إلى الاستشهاد، مركزا فيه على جدلية العلاقة بين النضالين النقابي والوطني في فكر فرحات حشاد الذي استفاد من تجارب سابقيه فأحسن توظيفها والذي تميز بأنّه من مكوني الرجال لا من آكليهم.
وفي البابين الثاني والثالث اختار مصطفى كريم أن يبحث في « موقف مختلف الفرقاء قبل وأثناء أحداث 26 جانفي 1978″، و »الوفاق المستحيل بين النظام البورقيبي والحركة النقابية » وذلك طيلة الفترة الممتدة من « الإضراب العام في 26 جانفي 1978 وصولا إلى نهاية النظام البورقيبي في 7 نوفمبر 1987 » .
أما الباب الرابع فقد » خصصه محمد المنجي عمامي للفترة الممتدة بين سنتي 1989 و2002.
وهكذا فالفصول الثلاثة تؤطرها منظومة فكرية متمثلة في مكانة الحركة النقابية في التاريخ التونسي المعاصر »وفي إبراز التداخل الوثيق بين البعدين الوطني والاجتماعي، وما انجر عن ذلك من نتائج أثرت أيما تأثير في مسيرة الاتحاد العام التونسي للشغل الذي وجد نفسه، في ظروف معينة، يقوم « بأدوار تتجاوز مـجرد دور المنظمات النقابية المهنية، مما جعله يجابه ، في مختلف أطواره، السلطة السياسية وأدواتها، ويجتاز، تبعا لذلك، امتحانات صعبة ، ومما جعل مناضليه، وباستمرار، عرضة للتضحية بالنفس والنفيس، كالاغتيال (فرحات حشاد’)، كالإبعاد (الأحمدان: التليلي وبن صالح)، كالزج ظلما في غياهب السجون(الحبيب عاشور)، كأشكال المضايقات والإقصاءات وغير ذلك من أصناف العقاب وألوان التنكيل، وكالتهديد بمحوه من الوجود والتلويح بإيجاد بدائل له أو كالمراوحة المتلازمة بين الترغيب والترهيب، بين الجزرة والعصا…،
والحاصل أن « جدلية العلاقة بين النضالين الوطني والاجتماعي في تاريخ الاتحاد العام التونسي للشغل »هو ـ إجمالا ـ تأليف ذو شأن ؛ وذلك نظرا لما تضمنه ـ أو حتى لما تغافل عنه ـ من معلومات دقيقة بلورت، وطيلة النصف الثاني من القرن العشرين، المعاناة المريرة للاتحاد ومناضليه من أجل « بناء دولة مستقلة عصرية عادلة، قوامها سيادة الشعب وأسلوبها المنهج الديموقراطي ».
غير أن الذي يثير انتباهنا هو الصمت الذي جوبه به هذا التأليف والحال أنه كان ينبغي أن يكون، بين الأفراد والجماعات، وفي النوادي والصحف، مثار نقاش فيه يتم تقييم هذا المسار التاريخي للاتحاد، وذلك قصد النظر في ما آل إليه راهنا من انحرافات مست بهويته وتموقعه الاجتماعي ودوره الوطني…، ولغاية التساؤل عما إذا كانت الحالة مزمنة لاأمل ولا رغبة في تداركها أوعابرة شأنها في ذلك شأن المحن والرجات السابقة التي عاشها الاتحاد العام التونسي للشغل.
وقد دفعنا ذلك إلى تناوله قصد إبداء بعض الملاحظات والتعقيبات وخاصة تلك التي تتصل بما ذكره كل من مصطفى كريم ومحمد المنجي عمامي، إذ هما يغطيان فترات تاريخية عايشناها عن قرب ودراية.
فبخصوص البابين الثاني والثالث كان ينبغي أن يلتزم مصطفى كريم بموضوعية أكثر إذ التاريخ أمانة وتجرد من كل ما من شأنه أن يكون تصفية للحسابات الشخصية التي تثير الضغائن والأحقاد مع الأشخاص، أو كل ما من شأنه أن يمثل انحرافا وتجاوزا للحقائق التاريخية.
ولنا أن نذكّر ـ في هذا الصدد ـ بالبعض منها:
فإثر اغتيال فرحات حشاد تم اختيار أحمد بن صالح خلفا له والحال أن نقابيين آخرين كانوا أكثر قربا لحشاد منه، ثم تمت إزاحة أحمد بن صالح وتعويضه بأحمد التليلي الذي جاء ـ فيما بعد ـ دوره فكان التآمرعليه وتعويضه بالحبيب عاشورالذي ـ بدوره ـ قد دارت عليه الدائرة في عدة مناسبات كانت تتسم بالرغبة في الانتقام منه والحط من شأنه؛ كرفع الحصانة،وتلفيق التهم والزج به في السجن..،، كذلك تعيين كتاب عامين للاتحاد مثلما حصل بخصوص السيد البشير بلاغة والإعداد لمؤتمرات الاتحاد وخاصة الاستثنائية منها (1965، 1978، 1986، ، 1987 ، 1989، 2000..،).
أفهلا يكفي هذا للتدليل على رغبة النظام في الهيمنة على الاتحاد ؟
ومن الملاحظ أن ذلك التدخل في شؤون الاتحاد كان في أغلب الحالات نتيجة حسابات خاصة بذوي السلطة ولانفع فيها للاتحاد ومبادئه ولرجالاته وقواعده ، من ذلك أن تعيين الحبيب عاشور ـ في سنة 1970ـ على رأس الاتحاد عوضا عن البشير بلاغة، أثناء مؤتمر المنستير وبعيده ، يبدو مساندة للشق الذي يتزعمه الهادي نويرة ضد الشق الليبرالي الذي يتزعمه أحمد المستيري، وهو ما يذكر بمساندته ، أي عاشور، السابقة لبورقيبة ضد بن يوسف.
وعلىكل فعند رجوعه إلىالاتحاد أصبح، وخاصة في السنوات الخمس الأولى، يناور كثيرا : فتارة يميل إلى السلطة وتارة أخرى يتبنى مطالب الشغالين. لكنه ، بداية من مطلع النصف الثاني من السبعينات بدأ ، نتيجة لظروف يطول شرحها، يتجه إلى العمل النقابي بكل أبعاده المطلبية والاجتماعية والسياسية باعتبار أن الاتحاد أضحى يمثل قوة توازن مما جعل النظام القائم ـ بجزبه وميليشياته وأجهزته..، ـ يقاومه حتىآل به الأمر إلى الخميس الأسود (26 جانفي 1978) ، الذي نتج عنه تفكيك المنظمة النقابية وتشتيت مناضليها (السجن ، الملاحقات، الطرد ، منع كل تحرك نقابي ، وفبركة مؤتمر استثنائي…،).
غير أن أحداث قفصة ومرض الوزير الأول (الهادي نويرة) وتعويضه بمحمد مزالي، والتعاطف الداخلي والخارجي مع النقابيين الشرعيين قد جعل كل ذلك السلطة السياسية تسعى إلى تغيير طرق عملها لتحسين صورتها مستغلة التصدع في صلب النقابيين ونذكر على سبيل المثال تكليف عبد الرحمان التليلي بالاتصال بالحسين بن قدور في السجن والعمل على إيجاد مخرج للأزمة.
وبعد نقل الحبيب عاشور من السجن إلى الإقامة الجبرية ثم إطلاق سراح القيادة النقابية تم الاتفاق على تكوين لجنة نقابية متناصفة يرأسها نور الدين حشاد .
وقد أنجزت هذه اللجنة مؤتمرات اتصفت بالديمقراطية والتمثيلية فأفرزت مؤتمر قفصة الذي كانت نتيجته استرجاع الشرعية لأصحابها أي نجاح المكتب التنفيذي الشرعي والطيب البكوش أمينه العام.
وقد وجد الطيب البكوش نفسه أمام امتحان صعب تمثل فيما يلي:
فهو، أولا، يجابه مطالبة البعض من أعضاء المكتب التنفيذي بطرد النقابيين الذين خرجوا من المؤتمر بدعوى اشتراطهم رفع الاستثناء عن عاشور وعددهم حوالي 120 نقابيّا، وقد استقر القرار النهائي على أن تلك المجموعة منتخبة من قبل قواعدها وبالتالي لايجوز طردها من طرف المكتب التنفيذي.
وهو، ثانبا، يجابه ضغوط القواعد النقابية الممثلة آنذاك لأجل تحقيق مطالب قواعدها المجمدة طيلة أكثر من ثلاث سنوات، وقد تمثل ذلك في تصاعد الإضرابات الشرعية وغير الشرعية تصاعدا شمل جل القطاعات ، وتعنت السلطة القائمة واستمرارها في نهجها القائم على الضغط على الاتحاد لكي يبقى في فلكها ولها تابعا كغيره من المنظمات والمؤسسات .
كما وجد الأمين العام نفسه يواجه ، ثالثا، ضغط السلطة على الاتحاد لتكوين جبهة انتخابية معه، وهو ما كون نقطة تخالف بين النقابيين وبين توجهين إثنين، فإما استقلالية المنظمة وإما الاستمرار في البقاء تحت راية الحزب الحاكم ، وإما، وهو الطرح الذي قدمه الطيب البكوش، أن يتقدم النقابيون لاباعتبار صفتهم النقابية بل كأشخاص يختارون ما يشاؤون، وقد آل الأمر في النهاية ـ وعند عرضه على الهيئة الإدارية ـ إلى إقرار المشاركة بنسبة 51 في المائة وذلك تنيجة لما كان يتصف به البعض من انتهازية ورغبة في الحصول على مقاعد في المجلس النيابي.
كما أن كان أمام الأمين العام ملف رفع الاستثناء عن عاشور وذلك في أجل لايتجاوز أول اجتماع قادم للمجلس الوطني الذي اختاره ـ وأثناء انعقاده ـ رئيسا فعليا له.
وعندما أصبح عاشورـ من جديد ـ على رأس المنظمة اتجه إلى العمل على تصفية الاتحاد من غير الموالين له، أشخاصا كانوا أو هياكل ، وكانت نتيجة ذلك أن تم طرد أعضاء المكتب التنفيذي السبعة الذين كونوا بعد ذلك الاتحاد الوطني (ولنا عودة إلى هذا الموضوع في مناسبة أخرى)، ثم تجريد عدد لايستهان به من النقابيين اليساريين، من صفاتهم النقابية ، وتنظيم المؤتمر السادس عشر (1984).
وقد تميزت تلك الفترة العاشورية الصرفة بالمناورات حيث تميز عاشور بالتأرجح بين التقرب إلى السلطة وبين اعتماد القوة النقابية أداة ضغط ، كما اتجهت تحالفاته مع اليمين وخاصة الاتجاه الإسلامي وما انجرّ عن ذلك من فتن داخل الاتحاد وتوقيف جريدة الشعب ـ بسبب نشرها صورة كاريكاتورية للوزير الأول مشفوعة بمقال عنه ـ ثم ـ وفي إطار تكريس العشيرة والمقربين ـ عمد عاشور إلى تغيير توجهاتها بتغيير المشرفين عليها ، إذ تم تعويض الطيب البكوش بكمال سعد لرئاسة تحرير جريدة الشعب وهو قرار انجرت عنه نتائج وخيمة على الجريدة والمنظمة على حد السواء.
تلك هي بعض الأخطاء التي انساق فيها عاشور والتي مكنت السلطة من استغلالها ومن الضغط على الاتحاد لأجل التخلص من عدة مكتسبات نقابية منها الخصم المباشر الذي كان له دور في تدعيم الاتحاد وأنشطته، ومنها أيضا التفرغ وغلق باب الحوار وتجميد المفاوضات،وتكوين ميليشيات وصفهم مزالي آنذاك، بـ »الشرفاء »، لتخريب دور الاتحاد ومقراته وتعنيف النقابيين ، وبالخصوص الضغط عليه للاستقالة من الاتحاد والتشفي منه بوضعه تحت الأقامة الجبرية والاتفاق مع أغلبية المكتب التنفيذي لتبديله بالصادق العلوش أمينا عاما .
إلاّ أن الهيئة الإدارية ، التي ترأسها الطيب البكوش،لم تتردد في رفض ذلك الإجراء وأرجعت الأمانة العامة لصاحبها الشرعي وذلك بالرغم من بقائه في السجن إثر محاكمة صورية.
وفي أثناء تلك الفترة انعقد مؤتمر استثنائي صوري انبثق عنه أمين عام منصّب هو اسماعيل اللاجري ثم وعند تنحية محمد مزالي عن الوزارة الأولى وحلول رشيد صفر محلّه انعقد مؤتمر استثنائي آخر ضم عددا من » الوطنيين » و »الشرفاء » و » الشرعيين » أفرز عبد العزيز بوراوي أمينا عاما تواصل إلى أفول نجم الفترة البورقيبية.
تلك هي ملاحظاتنا بخصوص ما ورد فيما كتبه مصطفى كريم أردنا إيرادها مساهمة منا في الكشف عما لاقته المنظمة النقابية من محن وأزمات ، وأيضا ، رغبة منا في تحديد مسؤولية الأطراف ـ من داخل الاتحاد ومن خارجه ـ في ذاك الذي حدث والذي لايزال.
وأما بخصوص الجزء الذي حرره عمامو فمن اللافت للانتباه أنه ، وقد تعرض للفترة ما بعد النظام البورقيبي، لم يقم بتغطتها كاملة بل لم يتناول أهم المحطات التي عاشها الاتحاد والتي أثرت فيه أيما تأثير والتي أدت إلى ما هو عليه الاتحاد من وهن وتدن .
فحالما استقر الأمر برئيس الجمهورية الحالي اتجه إلى معالجة الوضع المتأزم للاتحاد فكان أن استقبل جل رموزه النقابية وتحادث معهم وكان أن استقر الرأي علىاستقالة كل من الحبيب عاشور وعبد العزيز بوراوي عن العمل النقابي، على أساس ترك المشعل في أيدي غيرهم من النقابيين وقد اقترح كل منهما خليفة له ؛ (علي رمضان، بالنسبة االأول، وخير الدين الصالحي بالنسبة للثاني)،
ونظرا لأن الاقتراحين بعيدان عن أسس العمل النقابي واختيارات النظام منذ حشاد فقد لاقيا رفضا قطعيا من النظام ومن النقابيين الذين اقترحوا تكوين لجنة نقابية لغاية السهر على المؤتمرات، وهو اقتراح انقسم في شأنه النقابيون ؛ فمنهم من يرى أن للجنة الحق في الترشح، ومنهم من يعتبر أن دورها إنما يقتصر على إعداد المؤتمرات بحياد كامل.
وقد لاقى المقترح الأول تزكية السلطة التي سهرت على تشكيلها بنفسها وعينت رئيسا لها هو الحبيب طليبة..
وتجدر الإشارة إلى أن الحبيب عاشور ـ رغم إبتعاده الرسمي ـ واصل العمل والمناورات مع أهل العشيرة والقبيلة من النقابيين وكذلك مع اليسار واليمين على حد السواء لغاية إقصاء كل من يراه مهددا أو معارضا لمن أراده خليفة له.
من ذلك أنه وضع الرأس في الرأس مع خليفته وقاما بأدوار سيـئة وخاصة تلك المتعلقة بتحالفاتهما مع كل من الاتجاه الإسلامي واليسار وذلك بتقديم الوعود المغرية لكليهما كالعضوية في المكتب التنفيذي.
كما تجدر الإشارة إلى أن انعقاد المؤتمر الاستثنائي (1989) قد حصل بإنجاز نسبة أقل من نصف المؤتمرات المزمع عقدها وهو وضع بلغ من السوء إلى حد جعل المؤتمرين ـ وبإيعاز من السلطة السياسيةـ يتخلون عن ذاك الخليفة المنتظر ويصوتون لفائدة إسماعيل السحباني وهو وضع قيل في شأنه » مران أحلاهما مر » تلك هي الملابسات التي حفت بصعود السحباني ـ وبدعم كامل من السلطة ـ أمينا عاما ممسكا بزمام دفة الاتحاد بكيفية جعلت المكتب التنفيذي يصطف وراءه، فغاب عن النقاش النقاش .
وهكذا أيضا تتالت التنقيحات وتتابعت التشريعات على يد ذاك الذي أراده عاشور خليفته.كما اتصفت هذه الفترة بتفاقم الخوصصة مما انجر عنه غلق المؤسسات العمومية والخاصة وطرد أصحابها من العمال والإطارات. فتم بهذه الكيفية دفن الاتحاد حيا بوأد مبادئه التي من أجلها استشهد حشاد ، وبالتفريط في مكتسباته وخاصة رجالاته الخلص الذين قدموا لأجل رفع رايته الغالي والنفيس.
وأما عن الاستقلالية فحدث عن تغييبها دونما حرج إذ آل الأمر إلى حلقات التهليل والتكبير التي تنطلق من أعضاء المكتب التنفيذي إزاء أمينهم العام ومن هذا الأخير إزاء السلطة..،.
ولايفوتنا ـ في هذا الصدد، وقد تغافل عنه عمامي، أن نذكر بما هومعروف لدى الجميع أن هؤلاء المهللين هم الماسكون في الوقت الراهن بزمام الإتحاد، يغدقون من نعمه ويتقاسمون الولائم والسفرات..،.
ونشير ـ من جهة أخرى ـ إلى أن فصله قد تعمد الاستغراق في تناول ظاهرة العولمة التي لاتقتصر على بلادنا.
وأما في ما يتعلق ببعض المقالات التي استشهد بها فإن سياقاتها لم تكن في إطار ما ذكره بل كانت عبارة عن مواقف مبدئية ونضالية صادرة عن نقابيين وجدوا أنفسهم ـ ونتيجة لرفضهم الركوع ـ خارج الأطر النقابية.
وبخصوص الوضع الراهن للاتحاد وفي ظل الأمين العام الحالي فلنا أقوال صدرت في إبانها وفي مناسبات عدة. ولنا عودة إليها وإلى مزيد تفصيل القول فيها في مناسبات أخرى.
وأخيرا تجدر الملاحظة أن مؤلفي « جدلية العلاقة بين النضالين الوطني والاجتماعي في تاريخ الاتحاد العام التونسي للشغل » ـ وباستثناء الجزء الرابع ـ قد عمدوا إلى تشخيص الأمور وإلى جعل التطورات الخطيرة والخطرة التي مر بها الاتحاد كأنها ناتجة عن أمزجة الأشخاص، أوطموحاتهم، أوتكتلاتهم ومناوراتهم..، والحال أن الأمر أكثر تعقيدا من ذلك إذ هو في حقيقته ناتج عن تقدير لموازين القوى في ذلك الظرف .وقد عرفت تلك الفترة ، رغم تناقضاتها وصعوباتها ، نقاط صعف ونقاط قوة تمثلت في زخم كبير وهامش حرية وديمقراطية قلما عرفها الاتحاد العام التونسي للشغل قبلها وبعدها وإننا نأسف لطمس مؤلفي الكتاب ، وهم من المؤرخين، هذه الحقائق التاريخية التي يقر بها النقابيون وأغلبيتهم الساحقة لايزالون على قيد الحياة.
نحو منهج جديد للحركة الإسلامية… الغنوشي يدعو إلى حلف فضول جديد؟
قفصة: التلوث يسبب تزايد الإصابة بالسرطان
تعددت حوادث الوفاة في السنوات الأخيرة بجهة قفصة بسبب الإصابة بمرض السرطان. ففي معتمدية القصر فقط سجل المواطنون وفاة أكثر من 8 أشخاص أغلبهم من النساء في ظرف ثلاثة أشهر. وسجلت معتمديات المظيلة و السند والقطار والمتلوي وأم العرايس حالات مشابهة. ومن بين من توفاهم الأجل بشكل مفاجئ شبان منهم مدرسون عزاب وموظف بشركة الفسفاط مما ترك حسرة كبيرة في صفوف الأهالي. وتقول الكشوفات الطبية أن سبب الوفاة المباشرة لمثل هذه الحالات هو مرض السرطان. وقد أكد مصدر في معهد صالح عزيز أن ولاية قفصة من بين عدة ولايات بالجنوب هي قابس وصفاقس وسيدي بوزيد سُجلت بها أكبر نسبة وفاة بسبب هذا الورم الخبيث.
و رغم عدم وجود دراسات علمية و إحصائيات رسمية ثابتة فإن كل الشكوك تتجه إلى التلوث الذي أصبحت تتسم به الجهة. فالمعروف أن جهة قفصة تضررت كثيرا في السنوات الأخيرة من وجود معمل كيمياوي يوجد في معتمدية المظيلة أي 18 كلم فقط عن وسط المدينة. ولوحظ أن أشجار المنطقة القريبة من هذا المعمل اصفرت وذبلت بشكل ملحوظ كما أصبحت الأرض ترفض إنتاج الخضر والغلال. و توجد قفصة بين ولايتين تتسرب منهما غازات سامة هما قابس وصفاقس. و أكد الأستاذ أحمد الزغل رئيس جمعية حماية البيئة بصفاقس هذه الشكوك بقوله الأسبوع الماضي خلال ندوة حول السلامة البيئية أن معامل عديدة مثل » السياب » تتسبب في تدهور صحة المواطنين والإصابة بعديد الأمراض ومنها الحساسية والسرطان فضلا عن هشاشة العظام.
والغريب في الأمر أن عديد الجهات مازالت تدافع عن وجود المعمل الكيمياوي بالمظيلة والسياب بصفاقس وغيرها بقابس بالقرب من مواطن العمران لأنها حسب رأيهم تدرّ أموالا طائلة على صندوق الدولة. ولكن ما هو المقابل ؟ وهل ساهمت حقا هذه الأموال في تنمية هذه الجهات التي أصبحت تضم أكثر نسب البطالة والفقر ؟
(المصدر: موقع pdpinfo.org نقلا عن « الموقف » الأسبوعية، العدد 318 بتاريخ 24 جوان 2005)
جندوبة: إهمال مطالب المواطنين
قـدمت عـشرون عائلة من متساكني حي الشرفة الثاني من معتمدية جندوبة إلى جامعة الحزب الديمقـراطي التقـدمي و صحيفة الموقـف عـريضة طالبين نشرها احتجاجا على السلط الجهوية و المحلية بسبب إهـمال مطالبهم و عـدم الانتباه إلى مأساتهم . لقـد تعمدت السلطة الجهوية عـدم الإصغاء إليهم رغـم مكاتبتها منذ سنة 2000 ، علما وأن هذه المكاتبات موثقة برسائل مضمونة الوصول. وجاء في العريضة انه » لم نر غـير اللامبالاة و الحقرة « .
و يتمثل طلبهم في تعبيد طريق فرعي يوصلهم إلى الطريق الرئيسي ، ففي الشتاء يتحول هذا الطريق إلى مصدر معاناة هــذه العائلات ، فلا مريض و لا حامل و لا شيخ و لا تلميذ يقــدر على المرور ، فالأوحال و المياه الراكدة تحول هذا الحي إلى جزيرة معزولة رغم أن الحي لا يبعد عن مقر الولاية إلا كيلومترين اثنين أما في الصيف فإن الأتربة المتصاعدة منه تصيب سكان الحي باختناق و تتسبب في مرض الربو و جميع مسئولي الدولة يمرون من الطريق الرئيسي و يشاهـدون هذا الواقع المر. فهل تستمع الإدارة الجهوية إلى هذه الاستغاثة ؟
(المصدر: موقع pdpinfo.org نقلا عن « الموقف » الأسبوعية، العدد 318 بتاريخ 24 جوان 2005)
يومنا العالمي…….اليوم العالمي ……..للتعذيب
بقلم الحاج كلوف
هل من أمة في الأرض تتعرض للتعذيب أكثر من المسلمين ؟؟
ستجيب كل الأرقام الصحيحة و العليلة بلا صارخة تذيب القلب ..بسادية منقطعة النظير في عصر الديمقراطية و حقوق الأنسان وكل الكم الهائل من الشعارات الأنسانية والمتأنسنة يمارس علينا الاخر المتجمل بكل ألوان الكرنفالات القيمية كل أطياف التعذيب الأسود بين سجونه المغلقة و المفتوحة و المشرعة على كل احتمالات التعذيب و التحقير و الموت الأختياري و القسري.
التعذيب الأسود يكاد اليوم يطال كل فرد في هذه الأمة رغم أن الكثيرين منا قد انتموا للذئاب و فقدوا الاحساس بالتعذيب. فمن لم يكن تحت رحمة الألة العسكرية المتوحشة في العراق و فلسطين و افغانستان و الخليج العربي, ينتظر كل لحظة احتمال القصف المتعمد و العشوائي و تحدد الأوامر العسكرية خطواته في شارع بلده و أنفاسه في غرفة نومه -من لم يكن هناك-كان تحت تهديد ذات الألة العسكرية ووعيدها في سوريا وايران و لبنان و السودان ,يتابع العين الأمريكية الحمراء تحملق في وجهه و اللسان الطويل المتعجرف يقرعه و هو ما لا تخطئه نشرة أخبار واحدة حتي لو جاءت من قناة تونس 7 …ترهيب و ترعيب على رأس كل ساعة و بين رأسيها .
و من ساقته أقداره خارج حدود تلك المساحات الواسعة من التعذيب المفتوح على كل الجوانب الجسدية والنفسية و على كل المناهج العلمية و الجهلوتية و التجريبة ,فتجده نزيل الجزيرة الكوبية المحتلة التي دشنت حضورها الحضاري والتاريخي المجيد باحتضان فائض المعتقلات و الخبرات التعذيبية الأمريكية للمسلمين .
أو هو -المعذب المعاصر-نزيل المازوشية العربية الحالكة في أوطان هي أضيق من حفر التعذيب الأسود في أبوغريب و أشد منه وطأة في تونس و ليبيا و مصر و الجزائر و المفرب مع فوارق سعرات التعذيب حيث الوطن خصيمك ومقاضيك وويل جسدك و نفسك من أنيابه الطويلة .
يا أمة تتعذب ..يا أمة هذا يومك بامتياز …أي قدر وأي مصير ؟..يا وطنا ..يا عذابا ..يا عارا ..يا اسما مستعارا …أي قيمة وأي قدر؟
يا هيئات الأمم ..خذوا يومكم واعطونا أيامنا المحتلة ..خذوا يومكم و أعطونا عمرنا المعذب …خذوا يومكم واعيدوا أوطاننا المسروقة …خذوا يومكم و أعيدوا وجوهنا بمناسبة اليوم العالمي لمناهضة -أو نهضة – التعذيب.
TEXTE INTEGRAL DU TEMOIGNAGE ECRIT PRESENTE PAR M. RACHED GHANNOUCHI DEVANT UN TRIBUNAL BRITANNIQUE DANS L’AFFAIRE QUI L’A OPPOSE A « HOUNI LIMITED, AHMED SALHIN EL-HOUNI, ET AL ARAB PUBLISHING HOUSE LIMITED
6th February 2003
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE CLAIM NO. HQ02X00565
QUEEN’S BENCH DIVISION
(1) HOUNI LIMITED
(2) AHMED SALHIN EL-HOUNI
(3) AL ARAB PUBLISHING HOUSE LIMITED
WITNESS STATEMENT OF RASHID GHANNOUCHI
I, Rashid Ghannouchi, of 34 Tyrell Close Middlesex HA1 3UX will say as follows:-
1. I was born on 22 June 1941 in a small village in the south-east of Tunisia. I was the youngest of ten brothers and sisters. My father was a farmer.
2. I began my education at the village school were I remained until I was thirteen. Then, however, my education was interrupted. My father was too old to work the farm and my five brothers had all left the village for the capital city, Tunis, either to search for work or to pursue their education. I therefore had to take over my father’s work, ploughing the fields and bringing in the harvest. This left no time for me to go to school.
3. Fortunately, after a year of this, my eldest brother graduated from law school and was appointed as a judge in the nearby town of Gabes. He was able to support the family and I was able to go back to school. Two years later, when I was sixteen, the family moved to Gabes, where I continued my education.
4. In 1959, at the age of eighteen, I went to az-Zaytouna University in Tunis, where I studied for three years. After leaving az-Zaytouna, I worked as a teacher for two years. From 1964 onwards, I returned to education, studying in Egypt, Syria and finally France, where I was a postgraduate student at the Sorbonne. I remained in Paris until 1969, by which time I was twenty-eight.
5. I returned to Tunisia in 1969, basing myself in Tunis. I worked as a teacher of philosophy in a high school. I also began to spend time with a small group of young Muslims, including Abdelfattah Mourou (with whom I later founded the MTI – see below). We discussed religious and cultural matters from an Islamic point of view. Although we were not in favour of the secularism which had been imposed upon Tunisia by President Bourguiba (see below), we were not politically minded. We certainly could not have been described as radicals.
6. From 1970 or so this grouping began to call itself al-Jama’ah al-Islamiyah (the Islamic Group). We could not publicise our existence, as all independent organisations of any kind were banned by the Tunisian regime, but we managed to attract members with similar views to our own. I was elected al-Jama’ah al-Islamiyah’s leader in 1973. The group grew rapidly throughout the 1970’s but for most of the decade we remained essentially non-political. The discussions and meetings that we held and the articles we published addressed subjects that were principally religious and cultural in nature. Even this approach was, however, not tolerated by the Tunisian government and we were subject to constant surveillance and harassment by the police.
7. Although I will have to refer to the subject in greater detail later in this statement, it might assist if I spoke briefly now of the Tunisian regime. Tunisia obtained its independence from France in 1956. From then until November 1987 (a period of 31 years) the country was ruled by one man, Habib Bourguiba. President Bourguiba’s time in office ended not as a result of any election but following a coup organised within the ruling party by his prime minister Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. President Ben Ali has ruled Tunisia uninterrupted since 1987. The country has therefore had only two presidents in 46 years. The political party headed by Mr Bourguiba and then by Mr Ben Ali was originally named the Destourian Party but is now named the Rassemblement Constitutionnel Democratique. In this statement I shall refer to it as the RCD so as to avoid confusion. The RCD has ruled Tunisia, again uninterrupted, from independence to date. For that entire period it has tolerated no genuine opposition. The members and supporters of opposition movements, both secular and religious, have been subject to permanent harassment by the police and armed forces (both of which are RCD dominated) and frequently to arrest and torture. Many, such as myself, have been forced into exile. Others have been killed as a result of their opposition to the government. Tunisia has one of the worst human rights records in the world.
8. A particularly brutal example of the way in which the RCD crushed opposition occurred in January 1978 when the army was ordered to put down a general strike that had been called by the Workers Union. It did so with enormous bloodshed. Between 400 and 500 civilians were killed, most of them being shot on the streets by the army.
9. al-Jama’ah al-Islamiya played no part in these events. However, we were certainly politicised by them. They made us feel that we could not stand by and confine ourselves to cultural debate when Tunisia was ruled by a regime that was prepared to slaughter those Tunisians who stood up to it. To have done so would not have been consistent with our duties as Muslims. Islam supports the poor and the oppressed and opposes repression and exploitation.
10. The movement continued to grow rapidly in the years following the general strike massacre. Our decision to adopt a more political stance attracted a large number of supporters and various Islamic groups that had originally been separate from al-Jama’ah al-Islamiya joined with us. We began to attract the attention of the Tunisian press, which referred to us as the Islamic Tendency Movement.
11. On 4 April 1981 the RCD-regime announced its intention to call parliamentary elections and to allow the formation of political parties. This apparently democratic policy proved to be extremely short-lived but we were encouraged by it to form ourselves into a political party. We took the name that had been given to us by the press, the Islamic Tendency Movement (“MTI”). I was elected president and publicly announced the formation of the MTI at a press conference held on 6 June 1981.
12. At this same press conference we released the MTI’s Founding Manifesto. I was its principal author. The Founding Manifesto (a copy of which has been disclosed to the Defendants) expressed the movement’s genuine commitment to the democratic process, including pluralism and the sharing and alternation of power. It stated that the democratic process should exclude no one (even communists and other atheists) and affirmed that the electoral process was the sole source of legitimate government. The Manifesto called for the introduction of those freedoms, such as freedom of speech and freedom from arbitrary arrest and torture, that are essential to a democratic society. It also rejected violence as a means of bringing about political change. These are principles to which the movement has remained true throughout its existence. Whilst the Islamic faith of course had considerable influence on the ideology and policies of the MTI, it is clear from the Founding Manifesto that we could not be described as a ‘radical’ Islamic movement.
13. The MTI applied for registration as a political party immediately after the press conference of 6 June 1981. However, we never received a formal response from the regime. Instead, on 17 July 1981, the whole of the movement’s leadership, together with 500 of its members, were arrested upon charges of unauthorised membership of an illegal organisation, dissemination of false information and defaming the Head of State. I believe that the nature of the charges brought against us makes it clear that we were political prisoners and, indeed, in October 1981, Amnesty International adopted us as “Prisoners of Conscience”. Notwithstanding the purely political nature of the charges brought against us, we all received extremely heavy sentences. I was myself sentenced to 11 years imprisonment for these so-called crimes.
14. In Al Arab’s Defence (at paragraph 7.3) it is suggested that, in 1981, I was arrested and the MTI banned “as a result of incidents of violence throughout the country including an attack on a Club Mediterranee resort”. This is simply untrue. As I understand it, an incident did occur at a Club Mediterranee resort. However, neither I nor any of my associates in the MTI has ever been accused of having any form of responsibility for this or any other “incident of violence” occurring at this time, nor were we involved in this or any such other “incident of violence” in any way. My arrest and sentence of 11 years’ imprisonment were, as I have said, purely for political “crimes”. Those convicted with me were accused of offences that were, again, political in nature. The actions for which we were convicted are not, of course, seen as being criminal in democratic countries such as the United Kingdom. It is also untrue to say that the MTI was “banned” in 1981. The regime simply did not respond to our application for registration.
15. My colleagues and I remained in prison for more than three years. For some of this time I was held in the Ministry of the Interior building in Tunis. I was not myself tortured but, from my cell, I could hear the screams of other prisoners as they were tortured. Sometimes the guards opened my cell door in order to make sure that I heard the suffering of these other prisoners.
16. We were released on 3 August 1984 under a general amnesty declared in celebration of President Bourguiba’s eighty-second birthday. There had been much popular unrest in the months before this and I believe that the more moderate elements within the government persuaded Bourguiba that our release would help to calm the situation.
17. The MTI applied for registration as a political party again in June 1985. Once again the application was refused, although this second refusal was not followed by the mass arrests that had occurred previously. I remained at liberty – although under constant surveillance by the police – until March 1987. During this time I continued to call, as did the other leaders of the MTI, for the peaceful transformation of Tunisia and for the introduction of free and fair elections. I also began work on my book Al-Hurriyat al-‘Ammah Fid-Dawlah al-Islamiyyah or “Public liberties in the Islamic state”. A copy of this book has been disclosed to the Defendants. Once again, this book makes clear my commitment both to the democratic process as the only legitimate means of bringing about political change and to the need to secure fundamental human rights as the basis of any just society. These are again views I have held throughout the course of my political career. They are, of course, not the views of Osama bin Laden and his supporters.
18. On 9 March 1987 I was arrested again. This was the beginning of a further wave of repression by the RCD-regime. On this occasion I was charged with maintaining an unauthorised organisation, possessing and distributing in bad faith illegal publications containing false information which might prejudice public security and entice the populous to break the law of the country, defaming public order and official institutions and defaming the President of the Republic. As before, the nature of these charges make it clear that I was a political prisoner. I was, from the date of my arrest until the commencement of my trial on 23 August 1987, held garde a vue (incommunicado), again in the Ministry of the Interior building in Tunis. During that entire period I saw no one apart from my gaolers and the officers of the RCD-controlled police force and security services who interrogated me. My family, friends and colleagues were not permitted to see me nor was I granted access to a lawyer, although I asked for this. Once again, whilst I was not myself tortured, I could hear the screams of other MTI prisoners as they were tortured. My cell was surrounded on all sides by interrogation rooms which were in use 24 hours a day and I would very often spend whole nights unable to sleep due to the screaming. Many thousands of the regime’s opponents, including MTI supporters and suspected MTI supporters, were arrested and detained, often without charge, during this period. Many of these have since said that they were tortured by the police and security services during this time and a number of individuals died in suspicious circumstances while in detention. A large number of cases of torture by the Tunisian regime were reported by Amnesty International and similar organisations. I have disclosed a large number of such reports to the Defendants.
19. My trial took place before the State Security Court in Tunis between 23 August and 26 September 1987. Eighty-nine others were tried at the same time. The majority of these were fellow members of the MTI and were charged with political crimes similar to those with which I was charged. Seven of the defendants (five of whom were tried in absentia) were, however, charged with responsibility for the bombing of four hotels in the resorts of Sousse and Monastir on Sunday 2 August 1987. I was present in court when the two who were being tried in person identified themselves to the State Security Tribunal as being members of Jihad Islamique, an extreme organisation that had no connection whatsoever with the MTI. Jihad Islamique had previously claimed responsibility for the hotel bombings in at least two communiqués. One of these was published in the French newspaper “Liberation” and the group’s claim was reported in the Financial Times on 12 August 1987.
20. There can be little doubt that it was the regime’s intention, in arranging for those of us accused of political crimes to be tried with the seven members of Jihad Islamique who were charged with terrorist offences, to blacken the MTI in the eyes of both the Tunisian people and the West. The government certainly tried to blur the two categories of crime in the state press and in the details it gave to the international media. Furthermore, lawyers acting for Mehrez Boudegga, one of the two Jihad Islamique members to be tried in person, stated before the Court that their client had been offered a lighter sentence, by a government official who visited him on the eve of the trial, if he admitted membership of the MTI. I was present in court when this statement was made. To the best of my recollection, the representation was simply ignored by the Tribunal. I was also present in court when Boudegga himself said that he had rejected the regime’s offer and that he was not prepared to tarnish his sacrifice by associating with a movement whose moderate objectives and methods he despised.
21. The trial before the State Security Court was characterised by numerous irregularities and deficiencies that have been recorded by Amnesty International and other Western human rights organisations. Amnesty International, for example, stated that it was marked by “serious deficiencies” and that it was “unfair”. The US Lawyers Committee for Human Rights said that it “was marked by grave irregularities.” A report prepared by the Minnesota Lawyers International Human Rights Committee entitled “Tunisia: Human Rights Crisis of 1987” described the State Security Court as “an institution of grave concern to human rights in Tunisia” and asserted that “its…independence is fictitious” and stated, of the proceedings that “they were characterised by allegedly aggressive conduct towards the defendants by the presiding judge and that efforts by defence lawyers to intervene and question their clients were frustrated by the court.”
22. The State Security Court was on no view an impartial tribunal. Its president was the RCD’s own State Prosecutor. He had nominated two of the four other judges and both of his nominees were members of the RCD’s National Assembly. The other two judges were nominated by the RCD’s Justice Minister. The Minnesota Lawyers’ report stated that
“Both the constitutionality and the impartiality of the court have been questioned by lawyers, law professors and legal writers in Tunisia”; and asserted that the court’s appointments process had been “in violation of the principle of the separation of powers.” The same report also stated that “the objectivity of the National Assembly Members is questioned, since history has shown that members have normally been selected on the basis of their outspokenness against the alleged crimes” and raised concerns regarding the difficulty Tunisian lawyers had in representing defendants, in that Tunisian law provided that an attorney who “overstepped the limits of his obligation” before the State Security Court could immediately be cited for contempt of court – a sanction which could be imposed without the attorney being able to plead in his own defence. In addition, the State Prosecutor, purportedly acting in his role as president of the court, routinely interfered in cross-examination of witnesses by defence lawyers and displayed what the Minnesota report described as a “hectoring attitude” towards defendants. Other irregularities that arose (and which were reported by human rights observers) included the following:
· The court admitted as evidence confessions which those alleged to have confessed claimed had been extracted under torture.
· Defendants had been held incommunicado for prolonged periods (I was myself kept incommunicado from 9 March 1987 – the date of my arrest – to 13 August 1987, when I was finally brought before the juge d’instruction). This fact was drawn to the court’s attention on repeated occasions but nothing was done.
· Defence lawyers were only given the relevant papers shortly before trial began.
· Defendants were given no right of appeal.
The abuses that occurred and the final sentences passed, were, I believe, unsurprising, given that, as I have said, the court did not even have the appearance of independence from the RCD government, whose State Prosecutor sat throughout as the presiding Judge. All but fourteen of the MTI defendants were convicted and sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from two years to life. I was myself sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labour. The seven members of Jihad Islamique were found to have been responsible for the hotel bombings and were sentenced to death. Mehrez Boudegga and the other Jihad Islamique member who had been present in Court were, I believe, hanged shortly afterwards.
23. For the avoidance of doubt, I wish to make it clear that I had no involvement of any kind in the hotel bombings that took place in August 1987. I condemn all such acts of terrorism without reservation. They are never justified, however desperate the circumstances of the people who carry them out. I wish also to make it clear that I have no reason to believe that anyone associated with the MTI was involved in any way in the bombings. I have no reason to doubt Islamique Jihad’s claim to have been solely responsible for those crimes.
24. President Bourguiba was dissatisfied with the sentence that had been passed on me and called for a re-trial to be followed by my execution. I understand that preparations for such a re-trial were in hand when, on 7 November 1987, Bourguiba was removed from power in a coup d’etat led by his prime minister, Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali. Bourguiba was declared senile and Ben Ali assumed the presidency. One of the factors that caused Ben Ali to act (besides his sensing an opportunity to seize the top job) was, in my view, his concern at the growth of both domestic and international discontent at the treatment afforded to political opposition by Bourguiba. More than 3,000 MTI supporters had been detained in the months immediately prior to Bourguiba’s deposition, as almost daily protests were held against the unfair trial and then against Bourguiba’s plans to have us killed.
25. In the twelve months following the Ben Ali coup almost all of the thousands of MTI members detained during the crackdown which had begun in March 1987 were released. I was myself one of the last to be freed as I remained in prison until 12 May 1988. I received a presidential pardon. The early signs were that President Ben Ali would be a more liberal ruler than Bourguiba and, in December 1987, he abolished the State Security Court describing it as being incompatible with any system of justice in which human rights were respected.
26. In the early months of his self-proclaimed new era, President Ben Ali indicated that he was committed to the creation of a multi-party democracy. On that basis, the MTI agreed to enter into negotiations with the government, a process which culminated in my meeting Ben Ali at the presidential palace on 6 November 1988. At that meeting Ben Ali promised me that official recognition of the MTI would be forthcoming but asked me to be patient as to the exact timing of this step. Shortly after, the government promulgated Law 88-32 of 1988 which permitted the formation of opposition parties on condition that they were not established on religious, ethnic or regional bases (the introduction of this law was necessary because the pluralist measures promised by the regime at the press conference on 4 April 1981 – see above – had never been put into effect).
27. Encouraged by this development and by Ben Ali’s words, we decided to attempt to obtain recognition under the new law by changing the name of the MTI to Hizb An Nahda (the Renaissance Party), the name it now bears. This change, which, of course, involved the removal of the reference to Islam from the party name, was effected in December 1988. Shortly after the change of name Ben Ali was quoted in Le Monde as saying that the government would soon recognise An Nahda because Tunisian Islamists were different from the more radical elements found elsewhere in the world.
28. Legislative and presidential elections were announced for 2 April 1989 and we therefore submitted a formal application for An Nahda to be registered as a political party. However, the regime stalled and had still not provided its response to the application when the elections took place. It was clear to us from its use of this tactic that the RCD’s commitment to a multi-party system was a sham and, more particularly, that the regime would do whatever it could to exclude An Nahda from the political process. The government also sought to disadvantage us by banning those of our members who had been convicted in 1987 from standing as candidates. These were, of course, amongst the most prominent figures in the movement. Nevertheless, we decided to run candidates who technically stood as “independents”. We were thus able, more or less openly, to contest 129 of the 141 available legislative seats.
29. The elections were neither free nor fair. The results announced by the government were wholly unrealistic and many observers were quoted in the international media as suggesting that the elections were rigged. In the presidential election Ben Ali obtained 99.27% of the vote, while in the legislative election all 141 seats went to the RCD. However, even on the government’s own figures, An Nahda’s “independents” emerged as the largest opposition force in the legislative elections, winning 14.5% of the national vote, and as much as 30% in some urban centres (including Tunis). It is our belief that, in reality, our share of the national legislative vote was in the region of 30-32% rising to 50% and above in Tunis and other urban areas. The total share of the vote received by the six other opposition parties who had contested the legislative election, all of whom had been permitted to register under Law 88-32, was less than 5%. I would submit that the fact that the regime had nothing to fear, electorally speaking, from these parties explains why they were allowed to register.
30. I believe that the results of the legislative election confirmed the regime’s fears regarding the strength of our popular support, and caused it to recognise that, were a genuinely democratic system ever to be introduced, the RCD’s monopoly on power would soon disappear. On 6 June 1989, An Nahda’s application for registration under Law 88-32 was finally rejected. No reason was ever given by the regime for its delay in dealing with the application. However, its final decision meant that An Nahda’s leaders and supporters remained liable for prosecution, under previous laws, on grounds of membership of an illegal organisation, an offence which was, in itself, punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment under Tunisian law.
31. Almost immediately the regime, which clearly felt threatened by our electoral success, reverted to a policy of repression. As was reported by Amnesty International and other human rights organisations (in reports that have been disclosed to the Defendants), many thousands of supporters and suspected supporters of An Nahda were detained, often without charge, over the next two years. Torture again became commonplace and a number of deaths in custody occurred. Abdel Raouf Laaribi (in May 1991), Fathi Khiari (in October 1991), Faisal Barakat (in October 1991), Rachid Chammakhi (in October 1991) and Mouldi Ben Amor (in December 1991) were all reported to have died in custody in circumstances suggesting that their deaths were caused by torture. Demonstrations were broken up by the use of live ammunition and demonstrators were killed (for example, a high school student named Tayeb Hammasi was reported to have been shot dead by police during a demonstration in September 1990). In time the government also turned its attention to other opposition elements and even to members of the RCD hierarchy who questioned the direction it was taking. The crackdown which began in 1989 attained levels of repression that even outdid anything seen in President Bourguiba’s day. It has also continued to this day and there is now no genuine opposition figure of any significance who has not been either forced out of politics, driven into exile or imprisoned. The human rights abuses involved in this policy of repression have been recorded by Amnesty International, the US Lawyers Committee for Human Rights and other organisations and have been widely reported in the international media. Tunisia is now generally viewed as having one of the very worst human rights records in the world.
32. I was away from Tunisia, speaking in France and Germany, when Ben Ali launched this renewed wave of oppression. I was faced with a clear choice between remaining in exile or returning to certain imprisonment. I consulted other leaders of the party and it was agreed that our interests would be best served by my remaining at liberty, able to speak out against the tyranny of the government. The decision was therefore taken that I would live in exile. I had left my homeland on 12 May 1989 and have not set foot there since.
33. I spent the next two years based in Algeria and France. I travelled widely during this time and I visited a number of countries including the USA, the United Kingdom, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Sudan. I will return to the subject of my travels during this period later in this statement.
34. I commenced living in the United Kingdom in November 1991. I applied for political asylum here on grounds of the persecution I would inevitably face were I to return to Tunisia. I was obliged to remain in the country until my application for asylum was determined. The Home Office officials [NAMES???] who dealt with my case told me that the Tunisian regime placed considerable pressure on the UK government to refuse my application and sought to have me returned to face imprisonment. In consequence, the Home Office undertook what the same officials told me were very detailed enquiries into my case. During my meetings with those Home Office officials, it was made clear to me that they were in little doubt that I would indeed face persecution for my political opinions if I returned home. However, they told me that the Tunisians were alleging that I was the leader of a terrorist organisation and this required detailed investigation. I was told that, under UK law, the Home Office could not grant me political asylum if there were grounds for suspecting that I was involved in terrorism in any way.
35. I have never been told exactly what enquiries the UK government made into my case and, in particular, into the terrorism-related allegations that were repeatedly made by the Tunisian regime. The Home Office did tell me that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was consulted and also that, due to the nature of the Tunisian regime’s allegations, the security services were involved.
36. The UK government granted me political asylum on 3 August 1993. Since then I have, while based in the UK, been able to travel widely in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. When doing so, I have met and spoken with heads of government and other political leaders and with representatives of organisations committed to the advancement of democracy and the protection of human rights. I think it obvious that such people would not associate with me (still less to sit, as, many have done, on committees, panels and the like with me) if I had the reputation the Defendants now claim I have. In recent years I have, for example, met with Nelson Mandela, Jack Straw (the UK Foreign Secretary), Thabo Mbeki (the President of South Africa), Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and a number of Members of Parliament and of the House of Lords. In December 2002 I received an award for my writings from the Muslim News. The awards ceremony, which I attended, was opened by the Prince of Wales.
37. I must emphasise the significance of the UK’s government decision to grant me political asylum. As I have said, this decision could not have been reached had the enquiries the Home Office undertook over a period of more than 18 months revealed anything that gave rise to suspicions that I was involved in, or condoned or incited, terrorism. It is therefore clear that, having carried out these enquiries, the UK government concluded that the Tunisian regime’s allegations about me and about An Nahda were untrue.
38. I know from my ongoing dealings with the Home Office that the Tunisian government did not stop making these allegations and calling for my extradition after I had been granted political asylum. If anything, the fact that the Home Office had, in effect, cleared me of their charges appears only to have made the RCD intensify its efforts. They were no doubt encouraged in these attempts by the growth, through the 1990’s, of concerns in the West about so-called “Islamic terrorism”, caused largely by atrocities carried out by followers of Osama bin Laden.
39. One consequence of these growing concerns and of the terrorism that produced them has been a strengthening of anti-terrorism legislation in the UK. My lawyers inform me that the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Act 1998 made it, for the first time, a criminal offence in the UK to conspire in this country to commit an offence abroad. I am told that the Terrorism Act 2000 entitles the government to ban organisations suspected of terrorist activity and makes it a criminal offence to support such banned organisations. The Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, I am advised, gives the government power to deport or intern foreign nationals who are suspected of involvement in international terrorism. If only a fraction of what is said about me and An Nahda by the Defendants were true, the UK authorities would have been obliged to act under all three of these Acts and I would now either be in prison or have been deported. Nothing that is now alleged by the Defendants has not already been alleged by the Tunisian regime both publicly and its continued representations to the UK government. There is therefore no question of the Home Office being unaware of these allegations. The reason why the UK government has not acted against me in the manner urged upon it by the Tunisian regime is, I believe, clear, namely that, on the basis of its own independent and ongoing enquiries, it has reached the objective conclusion that there are no grounds upon which to suspect I have any involvement in terrorism.
40. Having mentioned the Terrorism Act 2000, I would refer to the fact that, as far as I am aware, the UK government has published details of 25 organisations, including Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda, that have been proscribed on grounds of suspected terrorist activity (under the Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2001 and the Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2002 copies of which are attached to this statement). However, notwithstanding the urgings of the Tunisian regime, there has never been any question of An Nahda being added to this list. Once again, I believe this must reflect the fact that, on the basis of its own independent enquiries, the UK government is of the view that An Nahda is not a terrorist organisation but is, in fact, exactly what it says it is, namely a party that is committed to the democratic process, the protection of human rights and the bringing about of peaceful change in Tunisia.
41. I would also submit that it is reasonable to conclude that this same view is held by the governments of all the other countries of western Europe. I say this because I know of many An Nahda members who have sought and obtained political asylum in every country in western Europe and I know of none who have been refused. I am aware from my discussions with these An Nahda members that the authorities of the countries in question have, without exception, conducted detailed investigations into the movement upon receiving their applications and that, in many cases, they have been told by the officials dealing with their case that the Tunisian regime has attempted to persuade them that An Nahda is a terrorist organisation and that the application should not therefore be granted. However, according to the members with whom I have spoken, these attempts have been unsuccessful and the European governments in question have, following their own enquiries, declared themselves satisfied that An Nahda is not a terrorist organisation but a peaceful and democratic political party. I would suggest that the fact that asylum has been granted in each of these cases confirms beyond doubt that this is indeed the view taken of the movement by all the governments of western Europe. I should in this context mention that I often receive letters from the governments of European states informing me that an individual seeking asylum has indicated that he or she is a member of An Nahda and asking me to confirm whether this is the case so as to enable the application to proceed. I know (from subsequent discussions with the members in question) that, in all such cases where I have confirmed that the individual concerned is a member of An Nahda, asylum has been granted.
42. I would now turn to the specific matters raised in the Defendants’ Defence.
“2.1(a) ……Al-Nahda was formerly known as the Islamic Tendency Movement (in the French acronym, MTI) but changed its name in February 1989 as part of an attempt to legitimise itself for the April 1989 general elections”
43. Although it is correct that An Nahda was formerly known as the MTI, its name was, in fact, changed in December 1988. I do not accept that it is fair to characterise the movement’s change of name as an “an attempt to legitimise itself”. I refer to what is said above regarding our adoption of the name Hizb an Nahda.
“2.1(b) Al-Nahda is a movement opposed to the elected government of Tunisia, which (unlike Al-Nahda) espouses policies which are – by the standards of the Arab world – relatively secularist, liberal and modernising……”
44. The picture the Defendants seek to paint of the regime which governs my homeland – as being one that is like a Western democratic government, freely elected, liberal and tolerant – is simply astonishing. As I have explained above, Tunisia has been subject to one-party rule throughout the 46 years since it achieved independence from the French. As I have also explained, the country has had only two presidents throughout that time and the second of these (Ben Ali) replaced the first (Bourguiba) not because the people elected him but as a result of a coup d’etat. There is, furthermore, no sign that Tunisia will be getting a third president in the new future, since, earlier this year, Ben Ali introduced constitutional amendments undoing reforms he had introduced when he first came to power and there is no longer any restriction upon the number of terms for which he can be president.
45. The Defendants’ suggestion that the Tunisian government is “elected” is ridiculous. Neither the RCD nor President Ben Ali are elected in any recognised democratic sense. “Elections” do take place every four years but they are neither free nor fair. As is apparent to (and reported by) all independent observers, Tunisian elections are rigged, and in a very blatant fashion too. This is clear from their results. For example, when Ben Ali was first “elected” president in 1989, he purportedly won 99.27% of the vote, whilst his party, the RCD, purportedly won 100% of the seats in the legislature. On the last occasion when presidential elections were held, whilst two token opposition candidates were permitted to stand against Ben Ali, their combined share of the vote was less than 0.25%. Whilst, in response to outside criticisms, a few token non-RCD deputies are now permitted to win legislative seats for cosmetic reasons, these individuals are always approved by the RCD in advance and they never exist in sufficient numbers to have any effect on the political process. No genuine opposition (whether or not of an Islamic leaning) is permitted. The constitutional changes I referred to in the preceding paragraph (which also gave Ben Ali a lifetime immunity from prosecution for any crime, however serious) were “approved” in a referendum held on 26 May 2002. According to the official figures released by the regime, no less than 99.52% of the Tunisian population were in favour of making Ben Ali, in effect, president-for-life and of placing him above the criminal law.
46. Saddam Hussein was last year announced to have won an election in Iraq and to have received more than 99% of the vote. This announcement was the subject of much ridicule in the West. The “elections” that are held in Tunisia are no different.
47. The Defendants’ description of the RCD’s policies as “liberal and modernising” is also ridiculous. The regime is notorious as being a one-party tyranny which regularly perpetrates flagrant and appalling breaches of human rights. None of those basic human freedoms – such as freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom from arbitrary arrest, imprisonment and torture – which are essential in a democratic society are, in practice, recognised in Tunisia. A huge number of instances of unlawful arrest and detention, torture and ill-treatment in police stations and prisons and deaths in custody have been documented by Amnesty International and other human rights organisations (I have disclosed copies of a large number of reports prepared by these organisations and recording such human rights abuses to the Defendants). Similar groups have recorded frequent violations of the right to a fair trial and imprisonment on grounds of political association, belief or conscience (including, although others have suffered far worse, my own periods of imprisonment between June 1981 and August 1984 and March 1987 and May 1988). State control and censorship of the media is total and newspapers are closed down and journalists imprisoned if they publish material that is critical of the regime. In the first worldwide press freedom index prepared by Reporters Without Borders (issued in October 2002), Tunisia was ranked 128th out of 139 countries listed. The notes to the index state that “… no criticism of……President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali is tolerated”. Previously, in May 2001, the New York based Committee to Protect Journalists (“CPJ”) included Tunisia in its “Ten worst enemies of the press“ list. The CPJ stated that President Ben Ali had “brought Tunisia’s press to almost total submission through censorship and crude intimidation”.
48. The censorship imposed by the regime upon the media in Tunisia is so complete that only newspapers that act as mouthpieces for the RCD are able to operate in the country. This is of particular significance in the context of my case against Al Arab because, as is made clear in the Defence, Al Arab is printed in Tunisia. I have frequent dealings with the Arab press and from these I know that Al Arab is, in fact, the only international Arab language newspaper which is permitted to be printed in Tunisia and that it is also one of only a few such newspapers permitted to be sold in Tunisia. In return for these privileges, Al Arab acts as a mouthpiece for the regime. It never criticises the president or the RCD or their policies and consistently attacks their opponents. It reports Tunisian elections as if these were a genuine exercise in democracy, although, as I have indicated, it is clear to any objective observer that they are rigged. When covering Tunisian affairs, Al Arab is no different in its tone and content to the newspapers that are openly owned and operated by the RCD. I attach to this statement, by way of example only, translations of a number of articles of this nature that have been published by Al Arab.
“2.1(b) …..Al-Nahda is and has been since its inception banned in Tunisia as being a terrorist organisation”
49. An Nahda is not, and never has been, a terrorist organisation. We have at all times rejected violence as a means of bringing about political change. Such change is only legitimate if brought about by the will of the people as expressed democratically. We have never condoned acts of terrorism. On the contrary, we have often been amongst the first to condemn terrorist atrocities. By way of example, the Defendants have been provided with copies of An Nahda communiqués condemning the first attack on the World Trade Center of February 1993, the murder of German tourists at Luxor in November 1997, the Oklahoma bombing and the terrible events of September 11th 2001. Most recently, we publicly condemned the bombing that took place in Bali for which Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility.
50. As I have explained, it was really at the trial that took place in August and September 1987 (see above) that the RCD regime embarked upon a strategy of seeking to discredit us by persuading the Tunisian public and the international community that An Nahda was a terrorist organisation. Ever since that time they have, when pursuing this tactic, had to contend with the fact that An Nahda has consistently rejected and condemned the use of violence. The regime has sought to get round this difficulty by suggesting that our public position is not genuine and that it is a smokescreen to hide An Nahda’s real nature. This same argument is now adopted by the Defendants. However, this allegation is not correct. In addition, it does not reflect the way in which terrorist organisations the world over actually operate. One only has to read the press to know that such organisations commit acts of terrorism in order to draw attention to themselves and to their “cause” and to attract support. Clearly these ends cannot be achieved unless the organisation in question is publicly recognised as being responsible for the terrorist act in question. Thus, genuine terrorist organisations, like Al Qaeda or the IRA, do not condemn, and deny responsibility for, terrorist violence. Instead, they claim responsibility for specific acts of terrorism and threaten future attacks in the hope that their opponents will be intimidated. If An Nahda really was a terrorist organisation seeking to overthrow the RCD regime by the use of violence we would no doubt conduct ourselves in this way. However, we do not do so because we are not a terrorist organisation and because our commitment to peaceful change is sincere.
51. I repeat that An Nahda is and always has been committed to a genuinely democratic and pluralistic political system and to respect for democratic freedoms and human rights. This commitment, and the rejection of violence, is clear from all the movement’s constitutional documents (beginning with the Founding Manifesto referred to above) and was restated at An Nahda’s 7th Congress in March 2001.
52. It is not correct to state, as the Defendants do, that An Nahda has been “banned” since its inception. There is no freedom of association in Tunisia and thus any organisation that is not licensed by the government is unlawful (with, as I have pointed out, membership of unlicensed organisations being punishable by imprisonment). Although An Nahda has asked the RCD regime to register it, and thus to make it lawful, on a number of occasions, the regime has always refused to do this. Under the oppressive laws that apply in Tunisia (which can hardly be described as “liberal and modernising”), An Nahda has therefore always been unlawful.
“2.1(c) the Claimant is and has been since its inception the true leader, driving force and ideologue of Al-Nahda, although as a result of his imprisonments …. Others have from time to time served as President of the movement”
53. It is correct that I have been a leader and a principal driving force of An Nahda since its inception. It is not, however, correct to suggest that I have been the movement’s only leader or driving force or that I have ever imposed my ideology or policies upon An Nahda. The movement is, and always has been, democratic in nature and its policies and ideology have always been determined by the membership as represented on An Nahda’s freely elected Consultative Council.
54. I have been An Nahda’s President for most of the time it has been in existence. I have always been freely elected to this position, often in the face of genuine opposition. During the periods in which I was imprisoned by the Tunisian regime I was unable to stand for election and others have therefore been elected.
“2.1(d) the Claimant……went into self-imposed exile in Tunisia in 1989, basing himself in Algiers, Paris, Tehran and Khartoum……”
55. It is, as I have already made clear, correct that I have not lived in Tunisia since 1989. I do not agree, however, that I can be said to have lived in “self-imposed exile” since then. This implies that I have some choice in the matter, whereas in reality I have no choice as the regime would imprison me immediately were I to return.
56. It is also incorrect to say that I “based” myself in Tehran and Khartoum after I left Tunisia. I paid only brief visits to each of those cities during the period in question. I was, prior to coming to the UK, based first in Algeria and then in France. I shall return to this subject later in this statement.
“2.1(d) …..In 1991 [the Claimant] was sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia in Tunisia following the discovery of Al-Nahda plots to infiltrate the armed and security forces, overthrow the government and assassinate its leaders”
57. I have referred above to the regime’s crackdown against An Nahda which commenced in the aftermath of the movement’s success in the April 1989 legislative elections. This crackdown involved the widespread detention and torture of the movement’ members. By way of example, Professor Moncef ben Salem was arrested in April 1990 for doing nothing more than giving an interview to an Algerian magazine in which he criticised the human rights situation in Tunisia. For this “crime” Professor ben Salem was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. The regime itself reported Professor ben Salem’s conviction in articles published by the state-controlled press which, although I was out of the country, were copied to me by colleagues in An Nahda. The regime also sought to discredit An Nahda in the eyes both of the Tunisian people and of the international community by adopting the same tactic it had done in the past, that of alleging that we were a terrorist organisation.
58. The regime’s campaign against An Nahda intensified through 1990 and the early part of 1991. It reached a climax on 22 May 1991 when Ben Ali’s Interior Minister, Abdallah Kallal, held a press conference at which he announced that an An Nahda plot to seize power and declare a religious state had been uncovered. The press conference was, unsurprisingly, reported in detail by the state-controlled Tunisian press, including Al Arab, and was picked up by the international media as well. Kallal’s announcement was followed by a new wave of arrests, in which thousands of people were detained. At least seven of these detainees died in custody in circumstances which international human rights organisations stated gave rise to suspicion that their deaths were caused by torture.
59. As if the supposed plot unveiled in May 1991 was not enough, the regime claimed, in September of the same year, to have uncovered a further plot in which “trained An Nahda paramilitaries” were to assassinate the President himself by shooting down his personal aeroplane using a ground-to-air “Stinger” missile.
60. Two hundred and seventy-nine individuals were tried before two military courts (at Bouchoucha and Bab Sa’doun) in July and August 1992, fifty-seven of these, myself included, in absentia. Many of those tried faced formal charges relating to the alleged plot, such as participating and/or assisting in a plot to overthrow the government or plotting and/or assisting in a plot to assassinate the President and other ministers. Others, however, were charged with crimes of a purely political nature. It is my understanding, although no formal documentation was ever served upon me, that I was charged only with aiming to change the system of government.
61. Although I was, of course, not present, I took a great interest in the 1992 trials. I followed contemporary reports in the media and studied the reports of human rights organisations that were prepared after the event. The latter included reports prepared by Amnesty International, Middle East Watch and the US Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (copies have been disclosed to the Defendants). From both media and human rights reports, it was clear that the conduct of the 1992 trials was characterised by the same kind of abuses that had occurred in 1987. The Middle East Watch report prepared in October 1992 stated that “…at the trials themselves, evidence of human rights abuses was ample” and “….the rights of the Defendants were violated in numerous and sometimes flagrant ways, and accusations of systematic torture in police custody hung over the proceedings.” The Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights report published a year later included the following statements:
“…..Both the trials themselves and the pre-trial period have been marked by irregularities….torture and ill-treatment of detainees has been widespread….”
“….Some judges have convicted defendants after refusing to hear complaints of torture and ill-treatment during interrogation.”
“Trials in both civilian and military courts have been unfair. However, the composition of judicial panels in military courts and the procedures followed in them are of particular concern to the Lawyers’ Committee.”
Amnesty International produced a number of reports on the subject of the trial and the regime’s repressive approach to dissent generally. One of these, dated November 1992, referred to:
“….two grossly unfair trials….AI has called for an independent inquiry into the trial proceedings, and for the judgments to be quashed pending the retrial or release of all of the defendants”
According to the reports I have seen, there were eight principal areas in which the 1992 trials were conducted in a manner that was unfair and which infringed the basic human rights of the defendants.
1. Allegations of torture
According to Middle East Watch, (on page 23 of its report) the most serious flaw in the trials was the courts’ failure to investigate the claims made by most defendants that their confessions to the police had been extracted through torture. In court, “virtually all” of the defendants repudiated the statements they had made in police custody and before the juge d’instruction (investigating judge). Specific examples were given of prima facie evidence of torture:-
· Defendants would limp on and off the court stage.
· Some defendants could not stand for their testimony – eg Jalel al-Mabrouk at Bouchoucha on July 13 and Mohamed Habib Ayash at Bab Sa’doun on July 28.
· Defendants showed their wounds to the court. Others described their torture – eg Ben Salah M’Salhi said on 28 July “After my police detention, my health was precarious” and Rachid Trimeche said (18 July) “because of a severe psychological crisis, I attempted suicide three times during my detention”.
Despite this evidence the prosecutor argued that because a separate complaints procedure existed, the court could still decide the merits of the case. Middle East Watch described this position as “absurd” and went on to state (page 25):-
“For most accused, the only evidence against them was their own statement and statements of other accused. If the statements of all the accused who claimed torture were removed from the evidence, there would be virtually no case left, at least on the main charge of attempting to change the regime by force.”
At first, the courts neither accepted nor rejected requests for medical examinations, but just recorded them and moved on. At Bouchoucha the court did, in August, respond to the defendants’ demands and ordered doctors to examine 69 defendants. The resulting reports were described by Middle East Watch as “deficient in quality”. Middle East Watch stated that all defendants who claimed to have been tortured should have been entitled to an examination by a specialist familiar with the methodology of torture. At the Bab Sa’doun court, Chief Judge Youssef compounded matters. He “repeatedly cut off the accused when they talked of torture, ejecting them from the courtroom if they persisted”. He “ridiculed” claims of torture, saying, for example, “Torture is not enough of a reason to sign a statement if it is not true.”
Those who were able to tell the court about their torture by the regime may however, have been the fortunate ones. According to Amnesty International’s annual report on Tunisia covering the period January to December 1992, “At least four of those arrested and questioned in connection with the alleged plot had died in 1991 in circumstances that suggested that torture had caused or hastened death.”
2. Widespread disregard of garde –a- vue detention law
Many of the Defendants had their arrest records falsified, to make it appear that the authorities had complied with the garde-a-vue requirements. Abdellatif Mekki’s arrest was, for example announced at a police press conference on 22 May 1991, yet police records indicated he was arrested on July 10 1991. According to the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights report dated October 1993, many defendants asked to see their police station registers to show that they had been held well beyond the legal limit of 10 days for investigative detention. Salem Bouzanza, for example, testified on16 July that he was held for 50 days at the Ministry of the Interior before being brought before the juge d’instruction.
3. Inappropriateness of the Military Tribunal
The defendants were mainly civilians and the most serious charges brought against them were under the Tunisian Criminal Code rather than the Code of Military Justice. All were, however, tried by military courts. According to both Middle East Watch and Amnesty International, submitting civilians to military justice is discouraged by the international law of human rights because of the threat which it poses to impartiality, equity and independence. These were all dangers which (Middle East Watch asserts at page 11 of its report) “arose at Bab Sa’doun and Bouchocha”.
Each military court panel consisted of four military judges and a chief judge, who was a civilian. The four military judges were chosen by the RCD Minister of Defence. The chief judge was nominated by the RCD Ministers of Defence and Justice. Similarly, the juges d’instruction (who had the task of questioning suspects at the end of the period of investigative detention and eliciting second signed statements) were chosen by the RCD Defence Minister.
4. Violations of the Right to Counsel and to a Prompt Trial
Many of the accused had been held in custody for over a year before the trial began. Middle East Watch refers to Abdallah Ben Salah M’Sahli and Ali Chniter as having suffered such prolonged detention. However, once they did start, the trials were, on any view, rushed through. They proceeded throughout the courts’ usual summer vacation period, for 6 days a week, often starting at 8.30am and not finishing until midnight, in sweltering conditions.
The juges d’instruction maintained that many suspects had chosen not to take up their right to legal representation during the initial investigative stages. However, at trial the defendants in question denied that they were even told of this right. Those prisoners who were allowed legal representations found that their lawyers were consistently subjected to long waits before being allowed to visit their clients, and were then limited to visits lasting only a few minutes. The authorities routinely listened to lawyer-client consultations, in contravention of the UN Standard Minimum Rules of Treatment of Prisoners. No legal aid being made available to the prisoners, 80% of the defence lawyers acted on an unpaid basis. They therefore faced enormous hurdles and disincentives. To do their job properly they would have to spend weeks unpaid looking through documents relating to two split trials, involving 279 defendants. As a result, a number of the defence lawyers tended to attend the proceedings only when their own clients were being questioned. When called upon to testify, many defendants complained that their lawyers had not even met with them before the trial. Often the lawyers themselves had not received transcripts of the police interviews with their clients. The court is said to have taken no interest in these various complaints.
5. Violation of the Defendants’ right to know the case against them
Voluminous and crucial documents were omitted from the files given to the Defendants’ lawyers before trial. With few exceptions, the defendants said that they had been warned at the investigative stage that if the statement they gave to the juge d’instruction did not match the one they gave to the police, they would be returned to police custody (and, by implication, torture). This is said to have prompted defendants to sign statements put before them by the juge d’instruction without even looking at them. Once signed, these statements were not made available to them until the trial.
6. Violation of the Defendants’ right to attend their own trial
Despite the fact that (at Bouchoucha) there were 171 Defendants (36 of whom were being tried in absentia), during the two days of the “interrogatoire” there was only one defendant in court at a time – despite even Tunisian law asserting the right of a defendant to be tried in his presence.
7. The arbitrary splitting of the case in two (between Bouchoucha and Bab Sa’doun)
The reports I have read refer to the authorities violating the principle that inculpatory evidence from one trial should be prevented from leaking into another. They mention the fact that, in one courtroom, weapons were on display which had allegedly been seized from the defendants in the other trial.
8. Lack of openness of the trial
Both trials were held in heavily guarded military barracks. International observers were allowed to attend, but banned from bringing interpreters and observers were denied access to prosecution lawyers.
These abuses were the subject of much criticism by the international community. Unsurprisingly, given the political nature of the trial, very few (only fourteen) of those tried were acquitted. 46, myself included, received life sentences, while the others received sentences of imprisonment of between one and twenty-four years. Without exception the sentences passed by the military courts in August 1992 were confirmed to the letter by the appeal court the following month.
62. In their Further Information in respect of the Defence the Defendants have elaborated upon the allegation made in this sub-paragraph by simply restating the version of events that the RCD regime presented to the public in 1991. This RCD version is, however, pure fantasy. The majority of independent Western observers have concluded that it is unlikely there ever was a plot to overthrow the government and assassinate President Ben Ali in 1991. They point to the improbable nature of some of the details put out by the regime and to the fact that the regime was unable to produce a single piece of independent evidence to corroborate the various confessions it had obtained under torture. I can say with certainty that there were no “An Nahda plots” as the regime alleged and that I have never played any role in any plot to overthrow the regime by force, whether in 1991 or before or since. I repeat that it is my belief, and that of An Nahda, that lasting and legitimate change can only be achieved in Tunisia by peaceful means. As far as the 1992 trials are concerned, I confirm that it is my understanding (based upon my reading of the reports referred to in the preceding paragraph) that the prosecution did not place a single piece of evidence before the court that linked me with those charged with being party to the conspiracy.
63. In their Further Information the Defendants have also referred to the alleged “confession” of a Captain Ahmed Amara, who is said to have admitted joining An Nahda in 1986 and then to playing a role in the supposed plot. I have no recollection of hearing of this confession previously and I do not know whether it was used by the regime during the 1992 trials. I can say, however, that no one named Ahmed Amara has ever been a member of An Nahda. If such a confession was made then I would point to the fact that the confessions used by the regime in 1992 are generally viewed, by objective observers, as having been extracted by torture. Indeed, in reporting the 1992 trials, Amnesty International stated that “the evidence against the 279 defendants consisted solely of uncorroborated confessions apparently extracted under torture” (my emphasis).
64. I would reiterate that my application for political asylum in the UK was only determined in August 1993, a full year after the Tunisian military court had sentenced me to life imprisonment. The Home Office officials who dealt with my application informed me that the Tunisian regime drew my 1992 “conviction” to their attention on numerous occasions and I repeat that, if the UK authorities, having investigated matters, had concluded that I was genuinely implicated in the alleged plots, I could not have been granted political asylum. The fact that I was granted asylum can, I believe, only mean that the Home Office, on the basis of its own independent enquiries, came to the conclusion that the Tunisian regime’s allegations were untrue.
“2.2 It is denied that the current regime is autocratic or that Al-Nahda can properly be described as a moderate movement. It is a radical Islamist movement dedicated to turning Tunisia into an Islamic state, even though it has at times (it is admitted) purported to support democracy.”
65. The regime that currently rules Tunisia cannot sensibly be described as anything other than autocratic. I refer to what is said above concerning its policies and practices. As for An Nahda, I confirm, once again, that it is committed to peaceful and democratic change and to introducing a pluralistic political system and respect for human rights in Tunisia and that our public statements to this effect have at all times been sincere. The Defendants describe the movement as “radical”. If, by this, they mean that we are anti-democratic and/or violent then they are, of course, incorrect. If, however, this word is intended to suggest that we are committed to bringing about a radical change to the political life of Tunisia, then they are correct, since the introduction of a multi-party democracy, democratic freedoms and human rights would certainly involve radical change.
66. As for the suggestion that An Nahda is dedicated to turning Tunisia into an Islamic state, Tunisia is, in one sense, an Islamic state already in that the overwhelming majority of its population is Muslim. I believe, however, that the Defendants are seeking to suggest that An Nahda aims to make Tunisia a country in which political power is placed in the hands of religious leaders, like Iran. However, this betrays an ignorance of the differing strands of Islam. Rule by the mullahs is only possible where Shi’ite doctrines hold sway, as they do in Iran. In countries such as Tunisia where Sunni Islam predominates clerical rule is simply inconceivable. Unlike Shi’ite Islam, Sunni Islam does not give a political role to its religious leaders. The Tunisian regime has sought to ignore this fact when speaking about An Nahda to the international community, in the hope that the West will view the movement as being akin to that which took power in Iran in 1979, but it is, in fact, well aware of the distinction. An Nahda’s commitment is to releasing those Tunisians who wish to live their lives according to the tenets of Islam from the artificial secularist restrictions put in place by the RCD. The movement is itself, of course, guided at all times by the spirit of Islam. However, it has no wish to impose Islam on those who do not wish to follow Islam. Such an imposition of religious faith would serve no purpose. It is, in any event, forbidden by the Koran, which states that there can be no compulsion in religion and that no man has the right to force people to become believers.
“7.2 The Claimant has been involved in radical Islamic movements since at least 1979. In that year, inspired in part by the success of the Iranian revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini, he set up his first political movement, al Jama’a al-Islamiya fi Tunis (Islamic Organisation in Tunis)”
67. I refer to what is said above regarding my early involvement in Islamic movements and also regarding the Defendants’ use of the word “radical”. I refer also to the fact that al-Jama’ah al-Islamiyah was founded in 1969/70. The establishment of the group could not therefore have been inspired by the Iranian revolution which did not take place until 1979.
68. The Defendants’ reference to the Iranian revolution and Ayatollah Khomeini appears to be an extremely unsubtle attempt to discredit me in the eyes of the jury by linking me with a figure who is a bogeyman in the West. This same tactic has been adopted on many occasions in the past by the Tunisian regime, which has often sought to portray me as an Iranian puppet. Now that the principal object of Western dislike is Osama bin Laden rather than Ayatollah Khomeini, the Tunisian regime has changed its approach and concentrated its efforts upon persuading the West that I am linked with the former. Remaining with Iran for the time being, however, I confirm that my connections with that country are slight and An Nahda’s relations with its government have often been far from smooth.
69. I do not deny that I found the Iranian revolution inspiring at the time it took place. It demonstrated that opposition forces motivated by the spirit of Islam could bring down a Western-backed autocracy. However, the popular violence by which the regime of the Shah was overthrown was not a means of producing political change that I was ever prepared to countenance. Furthermore, the undemocratic nature of the government which followed the revolution was not something I could admire.
70. My first dispute with Ayatollah Khomeini’s government arose almost immediately after the MTI was launched in June 1981. The Iranians denounced our commitment to the democratic process and a pluralistic system, saying that we had been influenced by false Western values. We reacted to this denunciation by denying publicly that the Iranian revolution was the only acceptable model of change and by asserting that the fact that our commitment to the democratic process would involve us in dealings with non-Islamic political parties did not invalidate our role as an Islamic movement.
71. This public dispute was the first of many that took place during the course of the 1980’s. In 1984, for example, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard published a bulletin accusing the MTI of being counter-revolutionaries and lackeys of the West. I wrote an article in response criticising the Khomeini government for portraying itself as if it alone understood the message of Islam and as if its revolution was the only legitimate method of producing change. In the same article I criticised Iranian foreign policy as reflecting “an extreme oversimplification of international relations” in its declaration that the United States of America was the true and perpetual enemy of Islam. It was only really in the 1990’s, when Iran, under new leaders following Ayatollah Khomeini’s death, began to moderate its position in a number of respects, that An Nahda began to enjoy better relations with the country.
“7.3 In 1981 this became the Islamic Tendency Movement (MTI), of which the Claimant was elected President in June 1981. The MTI was banned by the government and in the same year, as a result of incidents of violence throughout the country including an attack on a Club Mediterranee resort, the Claimant was arrested and sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment”
72. I have already described the circumstances resulting in my arrest and conviction in 1981. As I have said, I understand that an attack did take place at a Club Mediterranee resort. According to Tunisian newspaper reports that I read at the time, this was a spontaneous incident which took the form of local villagers throwing stones at the resort after they heard holiday makers inside singing the Israeli national anthem to mark Israel’s national day. I have never heard it alleged that this incident or any other outbreak of unrest that may have occurred in 1981 was inspired by any political party. In any event, I was not, and have never been, accused of having any form of responsibility for the Club Mediterranee attack or for any other violent incident alleged to have taken place in that year. My arrest and imprisonment in 1981 were, as I have said, for purely “political” crimes, namely unauthorised membership of an illegal organisation, dissemination of false information and defaming the Head of State.
73. When ordered by the Court to clarify their case regarding my conviction in 1981, the Defendants, in their Further Information, abandoned the suggestion that I had any personal responsibility for any incidents of violence and instead adopted the argument that I deserved to be imprisoned for 11 years on grounds that al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya was “a large and complex underground movement”, that the establishment of the MTI was “an act of deliberate provocation” and that the student wing of the MTI “was heavily influenced by the methods of the Iranian revolution”. I believe that the Defendants’ case, as now stated, thus represents an attempt to defend an action on the part of the RCD (namely my imprisonment in 1981) that is, on any reasonable view, simply indefensible. I also have great difficulty in seeing how the allegations now made in Answer 2 of the Further Information go in any way towards establishing the existence of reasonable grounds to suspect that, more than 20 years after the events in question, I am linked with Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.
“7.4 Although the MTI outwardly purported to reject violence as a means of bringing Islamic revolution to Tunisia, the Claimant always reserved the possibility of the unlawful use of force as the ultimate means to that end. As he said following his arrest in 1987 (he was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment, but released by the successor to President Bourguiba, Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in May 1988):
[The MTI] seeks to influence society with various institutions and structures to show people that Islam proposes solutions to the problems of life, and equally to bring the government around to adopting the vision of the movement and to govern in conformance with the shari’a. Otherwise it will take power itself and establish an Islamic state”.
74. The Defendants’ use of the word “purported” is inappropriate. The MTI’s rejection of violence was at all times sincere. I am also at a loss to understand what is meant by the suggestion that I always reserved the possibility of the unlawful use of violence. Presumably the use of the word “always” is intended to suggest that this was a position that I consistently held. This was not the case and the fact that the Defendants are only able to refer to one purported example (and that a distorted one – see below) of my having “reserved” the use of violence. For the avoidance of doubt, An Nahda has never reserved the use of violence as a means to any political end.
75. The extract from the statement I gave to the police following my arrest in 1987 that appears in sub-paragraph 7.4 of the Defence does not, I would submit, reserve the use of unlawful force”. It is, furthermore, taken entirely out of context. As the Defendants themselves know (having themselves disclosed the complete text), the full passage from which this extract is taken begins as follows:
“The MTI is a political movement based on Islam, aiming to develop Islamic thought and to revive the Ijtihad (effort of reflection) and renewal, the purpose of which is to seek a contemporary view of Muslim society. Its methods include political and cultural action, and it rejects violence as a means of transforming society. It adheres to political and ideological pluralism and campaigns for its realisation. Convinced that Islam is a religion and a state, the MTI regards power as one way in which to change society. However, it wishes to achieve power through cultural, social and democratic change, rejecting violent methods and coups d’etat. It therefore seeks to influence society with various institutions and structures etc.”
76. The Defendants have simply ignored the words “it rejects violence as a means of transforming society” and “rejecting violent methods and coups d’etat”.
77. The removal from their context of passages from my speeches and writings is a tactic that has long been adopted by the Tunisian regime in the hope that it can thereby portray me as advocating violence. The Defendants have adopted the selfsame tactic here and sub-paragraph 7.4 is not the only example of this in the Defence.
“7.5 The successor to the MTI, Al-Nahda, has been involved in numerous terrorist acts and plots in Tunisia in the late 1980’s and the 1990’s. As well as the 1991 plots referred to at paragraph 2.1(d) above, which involved the planned assassination of President Ben Ali by shooting down his plane with Stinger missile bought from the Afghan Mujahidiin, Al-Nahda was responsible for attacks on police and RDC (the governing party) posts at Charles de Gaulle in Tunis, Sidi Jebali and Bardo, and on souks, schools and university buildings, and private and official cars. One of the most notorious of the attacks was that carried out in February 1991 by an Al-Nahda commando unit on the RCD Coordinating Committee at Bab Souika, in which two guards were covered with gasoline and set alight.”
78. I had no form of involvement in the kind of violent activity described in this sub-paragraph of the Defence and I know of no reason to suppose that any member of An Nahda was involved in such activity. An Nahda does not have “commando units” or any armed wing. I have referred above to the Tunisian regime’s 1991 allegations concerning a plot to assassinate President Ben Ali and I can only repeat (a) that I, in common with most independent observers, doubt whether such a plot ever existed and (b) that, if such a plot was in fact hatched, neither An Nahda nor I had any part in it. The Defendants have failed to provide further details of the other attacks referred to in this sub-paragraph, or of An Nahda’s supposed involvement in these, and it is therefore difficult for me to reply to these specific allegations in detail. With the exception of that which took place at Bab Souika in February 1991, I have no means of knowing whether these alleged attacks actually took place. What I know from my own experience to be the regime’s willingness to lie about events in order to discredit its political opponents causes me to be suspicious, and my suspicions are only increased by the Defendants’ failure to provide the further details ordered by the Court. In any event, I confirm that I had no involvement in any such attacks (I was, it must be remembered, out of Tunisia from May 1989 onwards) and that I have no reason to believe any member of An Nahda was involved. I would also make it clear that I condemn any such attacks.
79. The February 1991 attack on RCD offices in Bab Souika referred to in the Defence did take place. The regime certainly alleged that An Nahda was responsible. This was not, however, true. This allegation represented an attempt on the part of the regime to smear An Nahda, and to discredit it in the eyes of both the Tunisian and the international community, by associating it with the actions of terrorist elements with which it had, in truth, no connection. The regime had, of course, already adopted this tactic in 1987 when it put An Nahda leaders (myself included) on trial together with the Jihad Islamique members who had carried out the bombings at hotels in Sousse and Monastir. The truth is that nobody acting for An Nahda had any involvement in the Bab Souika attack. I do not know who was actually responsible, but I condemn what they did, just as I condemned them at the time.
80. Although they have been ordered to clarify their case under sub-paragraph 7.5 of the Defence, the Defendants have still not provided further details regarding An Nahda’s supposed responsibility for the Bab Souika incident and for those other “attacks” said to have taken place in the late 1980’s and 1990’s. Instead (in Answers 3 and 4 of their Further Information) they have, once again, simply re-stated the RCD version of the alleged 1991 plot (see sub-paragraphs (1) and (4) of those Answers). They have also suggested that, contrary to all the evidence (including Mehrez Boudegga’s willingness to die rather than to deny responsibility), the 1987 bombings were carried out not by Jihad Islamique but by the “armed wing of MTI”. This is, once again, the version of events that the RCD wishes the world to accept. It is not, however, what happened. I can only repeat what is said above on this subject and emphasise that neither the MTI nor An Nahda has ever had anything resembling an “armed wing”.
81. The Defendants also refer to the November 1987 plot of what was known as the “First Security Group”, which included Sayed Ferjani amongst others. It is my understanding that this group did exist and that it planned to remove President Bourguiba from power in order to introduce freely elected government to Tunisia. However, as Mr Ferjani confirms, his group had nothing to do with the MTI. It was not acting pursuant to MTI strategy and the MTI’s leadership knew nothing of its plans. It certainly did not intend to put the MTI in “power by force”, as is now alleged by the Defendants. I myself had been in solitary confinement since March 1987 and I therefore knew nothing about the group’s plan, still less can I be said to have acquiesced in or condoned it. Had I known of the plan, I would certainly not have approved of it as it ran contrary both to the MTI’s policies and to my beliefs regarding the means by which political change should be brought about. The existence of the First Security Group’s plot did untold harm to the cause of democratic opposition in Tunisia.
“7.6 It was this latter attack which prompted a split between the more moderate pro-democratic wing of Al-Nahda headed by Abdelfattah Mourou and the more violent, led by the Claimant. As Mourou publicly declared: ‘Rached Ghannouchi has always refused dialogue: he has chosen the recourse to violence. But there are other Islamists who want to have dialogue with the government. I for example’. Mourou and his followers suspended their membership of Al-Nahda, and subsequently split altogether from it.”
82. Abdelfattah Mourou was one of the co-founders of the MTI/An Nahda. I had known him since 1969 when we formed part of the small group that became al-Jama’ah al-Islamiyah. We remained close until I left Tunisia in 1989. Mourou remained in Tunisia, which, although extremely brave of him, exposed him to enormous pressure from the regime as it carried out its ongoing crackdown upon An Nahda from 1988 onwards. Whilst, by the time of the Bab Souika incident in February 1991, most of An Nahda’s remaining leaders in Tunisia were being detained, Abdelfattah Mourou, together with Fadhel Beldi and Benaissa Demni, remained at liberty. However, I understand from Mohamed Zamzami (who states that he discussed the matter with Mourou himself) that, in the immediate aftermath of Bab Souika, the three of them were picked up by the police and told that they would be detained and charged with acts of terrorism unless they condemned An Nahda as a violent organisation and ceased to be associated with it. This threat amounted, in practice, to a threat that the three of them would be tortured during the period of their detention, as it was widely known that this was what was happening to all An Nahda detainees at the time. Under such pressure, it is, I suggest, hardly surprising that Mourou and the others cracked and issued the statement that is referred to in the Defence. They also froze their membership of An Nahda.
83. However, this is only part of the story. After freezing their membership of An Nahda, Mourou and his associates applied for permission to set up a new Islamic political party (this was reported in the Arab press). Although it satisfied all legal requirements, their application was refused. Then in January 1992, less than a year after the Bab Souika incident had taken place, Mourou announced publicly in an interview with, I believe, the London-based newspaper Asharq Al Awsat, that An Nahda had had nothing to do with the attack and blamed the government for creating an environment in which violence would inevitably occur. The regime responded by mounting a campaign to destroy him. Using the state-owned press and falsified photographs and video footage, the security services alleged that Mourou had been caught in the act of adultery. The strategy succeeded and Mourou was finished as a political force. Mourou still works as a lawyer in Tunisia and, far from having nothing to do with An Nahda, he sat for many years on the International Committee of Solidarity for Political Prisoners in Tunisia which worked closely with us and another member of which was Sayed Ferjani, a senior member of An Nahda who lives in London.
84. It is also incorrect for the Defendants to characterise these events as constituting a split between “wings” of An Nahda. Mourou led only six or seven members out of the movement. This number can hardly be described as a “wing”. Furthermore, whatever the regime may have forced him to say, there was never any genuine question of Mourou and I being divided over An Nahda’s overall strategy. We were both committed at all times to the democratic process and to the rejection of violence.
“7.7 In July/August 1991 the Claimant admitted that Al-Nahda had become a revolutionary movement and that its methods included the use of terrorism: in an interview in the Paris-based publication Arabies following the government’s announcement of the first of the Al-Nahda plots, he stated:
‘After 10 years of fruitless attempts to act in accordance with the law, we have considered that pursuing this way would be to mislead people and chase after mirages. Therefore, we have decided to impose change by the people’.”
85. Once again the Defendants have extracted a passage from a document in order to misrepresent my views. That they have done so deliberately is, I would submit, obvious, since, when pressed by my solicitors, they themselves disclosed the full Arabies interview to which they refer in this sub-paragraph. I do not, in fact, believe that, even in isolation, the words selected from the article by the Defendants can sensibly be read as an admission that An Nahda has become a terrorist movement. In any event, the article as a whole makes it perfectly clear that An Nahda remains opposed to the use of violence as an instrument of political change. I refer, in particular, to the following exchange:
RG “…with the help of God, we will bring down the regime this time”
Interviewer “With violence?”
Taken in its proper context, the passage extracted by the Defendants clearly refers to the failure of our attempts, during the previous decade, to operate within the ever-changing constitutional framework imposed by the regime and to our determination to coordinate such popular opposition as to force the regime to accept change as being inevitable. Such hopes may not have been realised, but my statement of intent cannot, on any view, be seen as an admission that An Nahda’s methods include the use of terrorism.
“7.8 The Claimant left Tunisia of his own accord in May 1989 and based himself in Tehran, Khartoum, Algiers (where he was a close associate of Abbasi Madani, leader of the revolutionary Islamic Salvation Front (FIS)), and Paris, before being expelled by the latter two countries in 1991. He travelled on a Sudanese diplomatic passport”.
86. As I have indicated previously, it is correct that I left Tunisia in 1989. It is not, however, correct to say that I thereafter based myself in Tehran and Khartoum, amongst other places. The Defendants’ suggestion that I was based in those cities is yet another blatant attempt to smear me by suggesting that I have had close connections with countries that the West associates with Islamic fundamentalism.
87. The first country in which I was based during my exile was Algeria. This was a natural choice for me as Algeria is Tunisia’s neighbour and it was therefore the country to which my colleagues in An Nahda could most easily escape and join me. Algeria was also, at the time, enjoying a period of democratic government and freedom that was unparalleled elsewhere in the Arab world.
88. It is correct that I met Abbasi Madani, the leader of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), during my time in Algeria. I do not, however, accept that FIS was a revolutionary movement. It was, as far as I was aware, a lawful and recognised political party that had a number of representatives in the legislature and which actually held power in a number of municipalities and regions. I knew of nothing to suggest that it was either extremist or violent. In addition, far from being an associate of shadowy organisations as the Defendants seek to imply, I was, during my time in Algeria, a guest of the government. I met with the then President of Algeria, with a number of other ministers and with other leaders of the opposition besides Abbasi Madani.
89. Democratic Algeria was an ideal place in which to base An Nahda’s leadership in exile and the Algerian government resisted the Tunisian regime’s repeated demands that I be extradited. However, I became increasingly aware of the unhappiness felt by Algeria’s military forces at the growing popular support for FIS. In common with many observers, I feared that the Army would mount a coup d’etat against the democratically elected government in order to forestall the progress that FIS was making. As an Islamist politician, I could not expect to be treated well by the Army in such circumstances and I therefore decided to leave the country. I left Algeria of my own volition and was certainly not expelled from the country.
90. After I left Algeria FIS won the legislative elections. Immediately thereafter, on 11 January 1992, the Algerian Army seized power and ended the period of democratic government. All prominent Islamic politicians were imprisoned and I have no doubt that I would have suffered the same fate had I not left the country. Reports of these events appeared across the world’s media.
91. It is also true to say that I based myself in France for a time. I lived in Paris for six months or so. The Tunisian regime continued in its efforts to have me extradited and returned to Tunis to be imprisoned for life. The French authorities resisted these demands, presumably because, like the UK government after them, they did not believe the Tunisians’ allegations concerning my involvement in terrorism.
92. Eventually, however, I was obliged to leave France. I had entered the country on my Tunisian passport and had obtained a visa on that basis. My visa expired after six months, by which time my Tunisian passport had expired also. Unsurprisingly, the Tunisian Embassy in Paris refused to renew my passport saying that I would have to return to Tunisia in order to apply for renewal. This was not a realistic option, given the life sentence that was awaiting me in Tunisia. The French would not renew my visa without a current passport and I therefore had no alternative but to move on. Technically speaking, I was not expelled from the country. However, it is correct that I had no choice in the matter.
93. Fortunately, I was then provided with a diplomatic passport by the Sudanese government. This passport was issued on 23 July 1991. I was due to attend the Arab and Islamic People’s Conference in Khartoum (see below) the following month. I was told by those Sudanese officials who were responsible for the administrative arrangements relating to the Conference that all senior delegates were to be issued with such diplomatic passports, which were valid for one year. I was able to use the passport issued in my name to leave France, to enter Sudan for the August Conference and eventually to enter the UK. I then had to surrender it.
94. The Defendants have disclosed a copy of the Sudanese diplomatic passport, which they have described as a “false” document. I presume that this description is intended to reflect the fact that the passport gives my name as “Rashad Mohamed Said” and does not include the name Ghannouchi. If this is correct then it betrays a surprising ignorance on the Defendants’ part of traditional Arab nomenclature. Under this system, a man is known by his forename followed by his father’s name and then by his grandfather’s name (in my case Rashid followed by Mohamed followed by Said). The inclusion of a family name (such as Ghannouchi) occurs in countries like Tunisia that wish to adopt a more Western or modern approach to matters. However, in Sudan, at that time, the traditional approach was clearly followed. I would, in any event, wish to make it clear that I played no part in determining how I was to be named on the passport. I received it as it was from the Sudanese authorities. I would also make it clear that, as far as I am aware, no official in any country to whom I showed the Sudanese passport was misled as to my identity. In particular, when I obtained the visa that enabled me to enter the United Kingdom in November 1991, which I did three months or so earlier at the British Embassy in Khartoum, the officials who interviewed me were certainly aware who I was. I was interviewed for fifteen minutes or so, during which time I gave a full explanation as to why I had a Sudanese diplomatic passport and why I could not return to Tunisia to attempt to renew my Tunisian passport. These officials already knew about me and about my convictions by the Tunisian regime.
95. As I have said, it is not correct to say that, at any time between leaving Tunisia in May 1989 and arriving in the UK in November 1991, I was “based” in either Iran or Sudan. During that period I paid only two brief visits to each of those countries. I was a delegate to the First Islamic Congress on the Palestinian Cause, which was held in Tehran in December 1990 (see below). Not long after this, I paid a further brief visit to Iran as a member of a peace delegation which also visited Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Jordan on the eve of the Gulf War. I paid similarly short visits to Sudan in 1990 and 1991 (on the second occasion as a delegate to the Arab and Islamic People’s Conference – see above).
“7.9 He had close relations with the fundamentalist Islamic regimes then in power in Iran and Sudan, which were themselves closely allied in their revolutionary Islamic objectives, and was a friend and associate of Dr Hasan Al-Turabi, ideologue and leader of the National Islamic Front which dominated the military regime then in power in Sudan. Al-Turabi is an Islamic fundamentalist who has publicly spoken in support of the Palestinian terrorist organisation, Hamas, and of Osama bin Laden. He is also a close friend of the radical Egyptian extremist Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, who masterminded the New York World Trade Centre bombing in 1993. The Claimant and Al-Turabi have co-authored articles and essays.”
96. It is not correct that I had close relations with the Islamic regimes that were in power in Iran and Sudan. I have referred previously to the Defendants’ reasons for making this allegation. I have referred also to the difficult history of An Nahda’s relationship with the government of Iran following the revolution of 1979 and to the fact that it was only when the Iranian government became more moderate in the 1990’s that this relationship improved.
97. Having been ordered by the Court to specify the matters they rely upon to support the suggestion that I had close links with the Iranians, the Defendants have asserted that I visited Iran “as early as 1979” as an invited guest of the “new revolutionary regime”. This is not correct. The only visits I have ever paid to Iran are the two brief visits referred to above. My first visit to Iran did not therefore take place until December 1990.
98. The only other matters specified by the Defendants regarding my supposed close links with Iran is my attendance at the First Islamic Congress on the Palestinian Cause and the speech I gave on that occasion. I will address the subject of my speech later in this statement. However, I would say that, insofar as my attendance at the Congress demonstrates anything, it demonstrates that I am well-known as a supporter of the Palestinian cause. The Congress was attended by delegates from all over the world who were prominent in their support for the Palestinian people. This is what defined the delegates and not any closeness to the Iranian government.
99. As far as Sudan is concerned, it is not correct to describe me as a “friend and associate” of Dr Hasan Al-Turabi. I know Dr Al-Turabi and have, on occasions, spoken at the same conferences as he has done, but we are no closer than that. We agree about certain issue and not about others. I have certainly not co-authored articles and essays with Dr Al-Turabi, as I believe is made clear by the fact that, when asked to identify the articles and essays in question, the Defendants were unable to do so.
100. The Defendants have, I understand, now confirmed that they do not allege that I am a friend of Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, the man generally thought to be behind the 1993 bombing of the World trade Center in New York. They are correct to do so. I have never met, spoken to or corresponded or communicated with Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman in any way. On the contrary, I have been extremely critical of the extremism which he represents and An Nahda has condemned both the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the shooting of tourists in Luxor in Egypt in 1997 for which atrocities Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman’s supporters are generally thought to have been responsible.
101. The Defendants have been ordered to specify all those matters they rely upon in support of the allegation that I had close relations with the regime that was in power in Sudan during the period 1989 to 1991. They have specified the following:
· That Iran was, by 1991 an active supporter of and provider of funds to the Sudanese regime. I do not know whether this is true or not, but I cannot see how it goes to show that I had close links with the Sudanese.
· That I “co-founded” the Arabic and Islamic People’s Conference with Dr Al-Turabi. It is correct that I was one of the delegates to the inaugural Conference and, in that sense, I was a co-founder. The same could, however, be said of any one of 400 or so inaugural delegates.
· That the Arabic and Islamic People’s Conference received financial support from Iran. I cannot recall ever knowing anything about the funding of the Conference. Again, however, I do not see how this assertion, even if true, goes to show that I had close links with the Sudanese regime.
· That I was granted a Sudanese diplomatic passport and allowed to visit Sudan in defiance of Tunisian protests. I have referred above to the circumstances in which I came to be given a Sudanese diplomatic passport. I repeat that, as far as I am aware, such passports were granted to all the senior delegates to the Arab and Islamic People’s Conference and I do not therefore accept that my receipt of one is evidence of a particularly close relationship. As for my being allowed to visit Sudan, I am not aware that this has any particular significance or that the Sudanese are generally reluctant to grant entry to persons wishing to visit their country. Finally, the Sudanese were not, by any means, the only country to ignore Tunisian protests about me. Algeria and France had done so previously and the UK has, in effect, done the same thing for more than 10 years now.
· That, in an interview with a publication named Al-Shira in October 1994, I denied rumours of a dispute between myself and my “friend Dr Hassan Turabi”. The Defendants have, after some delay, produced a copy of this interview. I believe that, taken as a whole, this article cannot sensibly be read as demonstrating the existence of a close relationship between Dr Turabi and myself.
“7.10 At the same time as the Claimant was being protected by the Sudanese government in the early 1990’s, so was Osama bin Laden, the now notorious Saudi Arabian leader of the Al-Qaeda network of international terrorists which was responsible for the September 11 atrocities, amongst others. The Defendants will invite the inference that, whilst he was there, the Claimant met bin Laden and associated with him. They hold similarly extreme views on the presence of foreign, in particular US troops, on Arab soil: see below. This feature of the Gulf War is widely regarded as having been the catalyst for the subsequent war of terrorism waged by bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.”
102. As I have said, I paid only brief visits to Sudan in 1990 and 1991. It is not therefore correct to describe me as being “protected” by the Sudanese government in the early 1990’s. I was not, furthermore, in Sudan at the same time as Osama bin Laden, who, as is widely known in the Arab world (and as is certainly known to the Defendants) did not leave Saudi Arabia for Sudan until the autumn of 1991 (having been linked by the Saudi police to arms smuggling). I had left Sudan by this time. At no time since the summer of 1991 have I been to Sudan.
103. This sub-paragraph appears to contain the crux of the Defendants’ case against me. Reduced to its essentials, that case seems to be that, because I was once in the same country as Osama bin Laden, I must have met him and associated with him and, because we hold the same views on one issue (the presence of foreign troops on Arab soil), I must be linked with Osama bin Laden and with Al Qaeda and with terrorist atrocities carried out by Al Qaeda. I submit that (even disregarding the fact that Osama bin Laden and I were never in the same country at the same time) this argument is clearly ridiculous.
104. For the avoidance of all possible doubt, I wish to make it clear that I have never met, spoken, corresponded or communicated with Osama bin Laden or with any other person known by me to have connections of any kind with Al Qaeda. Neither An Nahda nor I holds or condones the extreme views held by Osama bin Laden. In particular, neither An Nahda nor I approves or condones terrorism. On the contrary, An Nahda unequivocally condemned Al Qaeda’s terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on the very day these occurred. 10 days later, I wrote an open letter to the US Ambassador in Tunisia in which I described the events of 11 September as a crime against humanity and called for the punishment of those responsible. These documents have been disclosed to the Defendants.
105. I make no secret of the fact that I am opposed to the presence of foreign troops on Arab soil. There is, however, nothing extreme in this view. It is shared by many, if not most, Arabs. In particular, it is shared by the Defendants who have expressed their opposition to the presence of foreign troops in Arab countries on the pages of Al Arab. Quite clearly, this is impossible to reconcile with the suggestion made by the Defendants themselves in this sub-paragraph of the Defence that those who express this opinion are reasonably to be suspected of associating with terrorists. By way of example, I attach to this statement translations of articles published in Al Arab which condemn the presence of foreign troops on Arab soil.
106. It is unclear to me whether the Defendants are seeking to allege that I believe that the Gulf War and the presence of US or other foreign troops on Arab soil at that time justifies terrorism and, particularly, the terrorist actions of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. For the avoidance of any possible doubt, I confirm that this is most certainly not my belief. Whatever the provocation, or supposed provocation, nothing can possibly justify such actions.
107. Although ordered to do so, the Defendants have claimed to be unable to specify the precise period in which Osama bin Laden is alleged to have been in Sudan in the early 1990’s or the dates on which I am supposed to have met with him. Instead they have added a new allegation to the effect that, in October 1999, I participated in a “congress of international Islamic terrorist groups held in Islamabad in Pakistan, which was organised by one Jamiat-e-Islami and which was attended by Osama bin Laden and an associate of his named Ayman al Zawahiri. This new allegation is untrue.
108. It is correct that I attended a conference in Islamabad organised by Jamiat-e-Islami in October 1999. This conference was, however, not a “congress of international Islamic terrorist groups” but rather the party conference of Jamiat-e-Islami, which is a lawful political party in Pakistan with seats in the legislature and which is not a terrorist organisation of any kind. I attended as a guest of the party leadership, as did a number of entirely respectable political figures, including, to the best of my recollection, the Prime Minister of a Malaysian state and members of Jordan’s parliament. These foreign delegates (myself included) were afforded VIP status during the course of our visit by the Pakistani authorities. Other Jamiat-e-Islami conferences have, to my knowledge, been attended by Pakistani government ministers and, on one occasion, by the former Prime Minister Sharif Nawaz. The conference I attended was, furthermore, covered by both Pakistani and satellite television.
109. Such conferences are not attended by the likes of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri. Both of these man would, in any event, have been arrested on sight had they appeared in Islamabad in October 1999. Ayman al Zawahiri was, by that date, known to be wanted in Pakistan, having claimed responsibility for bombing the Egyptian Embassy in that country. Osama bin Laden was, of course, already wanted by police forces the world over, following the Al Qaeda bombings of the United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on 7 August 1998 which killed more than 200 people and injured more than 4,500 others. The United States government had, by October 1999, already launched cruise missile strikes against bin Laden’s headquarters in Afghanistan and was offering US$5 million for information leading to his arrest and, as I have said, police forces across the world were looking for him. These matters (and particularly the “wanted” status of both bin Laden and Zawahiri) had received the widest possible coverage in the world’s media and the idea that these two men could have walked into the Pakistani capital in order to attend the conference of a major political party, held in public and in the full view of the Pakistani and Arab media, is simply ludicrous.
110. As I have said, al Jama’a al-Islamiyya means “The Islamic Group” (or “The Islamic Community”) in Arabic. Jamiat-e-Islami is another transliteration of the same Arabic words. There are many groupings across the Arabic-speaking world that have this, or a very similar name. They are unconnected with each other and are very different from each other. Some are essentially non-political (such as al Jama’a al-Islamiyya fi Tunis, the organisation of which I was a member prior to the founding of the MTI – see above), while others, such as the Pakistani Jamiat-e-Islami, are political, but committed to the democratic process (the Pakistani Jamiat-e-Islami was founded in the 1940’s and is thus one of the oldest Islamist movements in the world). Others are terrorist organisations and unashamedly so. The Egyptian al-Gama’at al-Islamiya is one such terrorist group (and is proscribed in the United Kingdom under the Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2001). Another, named Jamaah Islamiyah, claimed responsibility for the Bali bombing (and is proscribed in the United Kingdom under the Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2002). The political party whose conference I attended in Islamabad in 1999 has no connection at all with these terrorist organisations. The Defendants, being the publishers of a purportedly pan-Arab newspaper, are well aware of these distinctions. However, I believe they wish to confuse an English court into thinking all groups of the name Jama’a al-Islamiyya are one and the same.
“7.11 The Claimant’s revolutionary Islamic views and support for the use of violence have not been confined to the Tunisian domestic arena……….”
111. I do not hold, and have never held, “revolutionary” views. I have been consistent, throughout my political career, in advocating democratic, as opposed to revolutionary, change. I do not support, and have never supported, the use of violence. I have spoken often about the manner in which peoples, such as the Palestinian people and, of course, the Tunisian people, are driven to violence by their rulers’ refusal to allow them to play any part in the political process or to express their views by any other means. I have not, however, advocated violence as a solution to the repression of those peoples by their rulers.
“7.11(a) Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, in a message to his followers issued the following month (also described by his spokesmen as a private communication to a colleague which had been leaked), the Claimant strongly denounced the Western intervention and issued a call for Muslims to rise up and struggle against the Western presence of Islamic soil.
112. The Defendants have been unable to provide a copy of this “message” or to specify what I am supposed to have said in it. I have no recollection of issuing any message in September 1990. It is possible, however, that I did issue some form of statement at this time and, if I did, it is very likely that this would have criticised the presence of Western troops in what are, to all Muslims, the holy places of Saudi Arabia. This view was not “revolutionary”. As I have said, it was expressed by very many Arabs at the time and, particularly, by the Defendants on the pages of Al Arab. I do not believe that the Defendants can, in these circumstances, sensibly allege that the expression of opposition to the presence of Western troops in Saudi Arabia constitutes “reasonable grounds to suspect” association with Osama bin Laden and/or Al Qaeda. I also do not believe that the summaries of what I am supposed to have said in this “message” given in both the Defence and in the “Further Information in respect of the Defence” can reasonably be read as inciting or supporting terrorism or violence.
7.11(b) My speech to the First Islamic Congress on the Palestinian Cause in Tehran in December 1990.
113. It is, as I have said, correct that I attended the First Islamic Congress on the Palestinian Cause in Tehran in December 1990 and that I delivered a speech on that occasion. I spoke in Arabic and a copy of my speech has been disclosed to the Defendants, together with an accurate translation into English. The translation that has been disclosed by the Defendants, from which the extracts appearing in the Defence have been taken, is inaccurate, exaggerated and distorted. The Defendants’ translation is a document with which I am familiar, as it has, for the past ten years or so, been provided by the Tunisian Embassy in London to every UK-based newspaper that has either shown an interest in writing about An Nahda. Exactly the same document was, for example, provided by the Tunisian Embassy to The Sunday Telegraph and to The Sunday Express, both of which accused me of terrorist activity and both of which subsequently published apologies to me for doing this (see below). In its statement to the Court, The Sunday Express even confirmed that its untrue allegations “were published in reliance in part upon information provided by the Tunisian Embassy in London”.
114. It is correct that I began my speech by praising Ayatollah Khomeini. This was, in part, simply a matter of good manners. I was a guest in Iran. Ayatollah Khomeini, who had died the previous year, was still venerated in the country and was identified across the world with the country. To praise him was thus to praise Iran and I consider it a matter of basic courtesy to praise any country in which I am a guest. I was also attempting to improve relations with Iran as, in the post-Khomeini era, it moved towards a more moderate position on the international stage. As I have described, An Nahda’s relationship with Iran had not been good for many years. Finally, whatever differences An Nahda may have had with Ayatollah Khomeini and the Iranian regime over the years, we were essentially in agreement as far as the Palestinian cause was concerned. Given that the Palestinian cause was the subject of the Congress, there was no reason for me to be anything other than amicable towards my hosts.
115. It is also correct that I denounced Israel in my speech. I have been opposed to Israel all my life. That opposition is born not of any fundamental hostility towards Jewish people. It is a result of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people. One of my earliest political memories is of reading a newspaper article about the massacre of 250 Palestinians by Irgun and Stern terrorist gangs in a village called Deir Yassin in April 1948 (the gangs were, incidentally, commanded by Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, both of whom later became Israeli prime ministers). Reports of such atrocities, and of the expulsion of whole Palestinian communities to make way for Israeli settlers, had a great influence upon me as I grew up. They were, in fact, enormously influential across the Arab world and, throughout its existence, Israel has been opposed by the overwhelming majority of Arab people. The views I hold concerning Israel, and which I expressed at the Tehran Congress of December 1990 and on other occasions, are held by the overwhelming majority of Arabs. This does not, of course, mean that the majority of Arabs are terrorists or people who might reasonably be suspected of involvement in terrorism. In this regard, I would refer again to the Defendants who have, for many years, consistently published material which is anti-Israeli, and indeed anti-Semitic, in the extreme. I do not say that this fact means that the Defendants are extremists who might reasonably be suspected of having links with terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda. However, it is impossible to reconcile those articles that have, for many years, appeared in Al Arab on the subject of Israel with the argument that is now advanced before the English Court by the people responsible for those very same articles. Attached to this statement are translations of examples of anti-Israeli and indeed, in my view, anti-Semitic articles that have been published in Al Arab.
116. It is also correct that, in my speech to the Tehran Congress of December 1990, I denounced the USA. To be more precise, it is correct that I denounced United States policy in relation to Palestine. I am not opposed to the United States as such. I find much to admire in liberal democracies like America. However, the USA disregards all liberal and democratic principles when formulating its policy in relation to the Middle East. Everything is sacrificed to the interests of the Israelis and the USA uses its enormous power to support a status quo in which the Palestinian people are denied those fundamental human rights – such as the right to elect their rulers and freedom from torture and arbitrary imprisonment – which, domestically, Americans appear to value above all else.
117. Again, such opposition to US policy is not an indication of extremism. It is, on the contrary, felt and expressed by the overwhelming majority of Arab people across the world. In particular, anti-US articles have appeared regularly in Al Arab for as long as it has been published. As before, I cannot, in view of this fact, see how the Defendants can allege that opposition to the United States’ policies in the Middle East constitutes reasonable grounds to suspect an individual of terrorism and of association with the most notorious terrorist in the world.
118. The Defendants refer to the tone as well as the content of my Tehran speech and it is correct that, even when accurately translated, the tone of that speech was more fiery than I would generally use. I repeat what I have said above about the view taken by almost all Arabs of Israel and the suffering inflicted upon the Palestinian people by the Israelis and their backers. This view is held extremely strongly and with great passion by Arab people and the Palestinian issue is not one that generally gives rise to calm and philosophical thoughts on our part (in much the same way as, for example, the events of 11 September 2001 do not, quite understandably, generally give rise to calm and philosophical thoughts on the part of most Americans). It must also be remembered that, in December 1990, an American-led coalition was on the verge of attacking Iraq. This was a subject of great anxiety across the Arab world. People were concerned that the deployment of huge numbers of US troops in the Middle East would lead to events beyond simply the eviction of the Iraqi army from Kuwait. The consistently pro-Israeli nature of US policy gave rise to fears that this concentration of armed force would be used against other Arab countries who stood in opposition to Israel and/or that the United States would use the excuse provided by Iraq to justify the establishment of a permanent military presence in the region that could subsequently be used to threaten or attack other Arab countries whenever this was felt to be in Israel’s interests. In short, emotions were running very high in the Arab world. This clearly influenced me and caused me to adopt a tone that was, for me, unusual. I do now regret some of the uncharacteristic language that I used in Tehran.
119. Notwithstanding this, I do not accept that my speech to the Tehran Congress can properly be read as advocating or supporting terrorism. Whilst I certainly support the struggle of the Palestinian people against their repression and displacement by Israel, I do not support the use of terrorism against any target. I have, in particular, repeatedly called for both sides in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to avoid taking any steps that might result in civilian casualties. The references in my speech to the struggle, or fight or war for the liberation of the Palestinian people are not references to the armed acts of terrorists claiming to act on behalf of the Palestinian people but to the popular uprising of the Palestinian people themselves known as the intifada and, in a wider sense, to the need for the Arab people generally to free themselves from their mental and spiritual subordination to the West and to capitalism and to restore the primacy of traditional Islamic values.
120. I would emphasise that I concluded my Tehran speech with a call for dialogue, justice and friendship and a reminder that Islam is kind, forgiving and tolerant. By doing this, I was attempting to point the way to the alternative to conflict between the West and Islam that I still believed to be open. I submit that I would clearly not have ended my speech in this manner if it had genuinely been my purpose to incite my hearers to terrorism or violence.
121. In their Further Information in respect of the Defence, the Defendants refer also to an address I am said to have given to “fundamentalist sympathisers” in March 1994 in which I am alleged to have supported Hamas and the use of force as part of the struggle against “the imposition of Zionist hegemony on the Arab-Islamic region”. I have no specific recollection of the occasion in question. I certainly support the struggle of the Palestinian people against their repression by the state of Israel. In this, I am no different to the overwhelming majority of Arabs (the Defendants included). I am, however, of the very clear view that neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians ought to seek to inflict civilian casualties. As far as support for the intifada is concerned, I would point out, once again, that such support has been shown consistently by the Defendants themselves on the pages of Al Arab. Indeed, articles supporting Hamas have frequently been published in Al Arab. As previously, I cannot see how the Defendants can, in view of this, now suggest that such support constitutes reasonable grounds to suspect the alleged “supporter” of having links with Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. I attach, by way of example, translations of a number of articles published in Al Arab which clearly support the intifada.
“7.11(c) In August 1991 the Claimant along with Al-Turabi set up the ‘Arab and Islamic People’s Conference’ which met in Khartoum, and denounced efforts being made for Middle East peace. The Claimant spoke in similarly extreme terms to those he had used in Tehran in the previous year (see above). The Arab and Islamic People’s Conference was in truth a kind of an Islamic fundamentalist “Inernational”, attracting radical ideologues and recruits for terrorist training camps in the countryside. Bin Laden was finally expelled from Sudan in May 1996 and subsequently based himself in Afghanistan”
122. As I have already made clear, it is correct that I attended the Arab and Islamic People’s Conference held in Khartoum in August 1991. I did not play any part in organising or setting up the conference. 400 or so delegates of very differing persuasions (they included a number of Arab Christians) attended the conference. Specific aspects of proposals then being made internationally for solving the Palestinian problem were certainly criticised by a number of delegates, generally because it was felt that they did not satisfy the legitimate hopes of the Palestinian people. However, I do not recall any delegate, still less the conference as a whole, denouncing or opposing the principle that peace should be sought in the Middle East.
123. The Defendants have failed to provide a copy of the speech they say I gave to the Khartoum conference. They have disclosed a document in English which they say contains “excerpts” from the speech. I do not deliver speeches in English, so this document can, at best, be a supposed translation of extracts from my speech. Given that the Defendants have already relied upon one wholly misleading translation (that of my Tehran speech), and that, as described above, they have also shown themselves prepared to select excerpts from documents in a manner intended to misrepresent the opinions clearly expressed by me in those documents as a whole, I am certainly not prepared to accept that the Defendants’ document provides anything resembling an accurate summary or reflection of the speech I actually gave to the Khartoum conference. The Defendants have not indicated where this document came from or who they believe prepared it. In the absence of any further details, I can only conclude that it is likely to have originated (like the misleading Tehran speech translation) with the Tunisian Embassy in London or with some other office of the Tunisian regime. If this is correct then it is almost certain that the document has been fabricated with the specific purpose of discrediting me, particularly in the eyes of Western public opinion.
124. It is wholly incorrect to describe the Conference as “an Islamic fundamentalist ‘International’, attracting radical ideologues and recruits for terrorist training camps in the countryside.” As I have said, the Conference was attended by more than 400 delegates of differing political and religious persuasions, who were certainly not “radical ideologues”. The overwhelming majority of the delegates were, furthermore, prominent figures in the Arab world. The idea that, during the Conference, they were recruited by terrorist training camps situated in the Sudanese countryside is simply ludicrous. These people attended the Conference in the same way that delegates the world over attend political conferences and, when it was over, they returned to the countries they had come from (or, in the case of Sudanese delegates, to their home towns) again in the usual way.
125. For the avoidance of any possible doubt, I would emphasise that I would never have agreed to play any part in any conference of the kind described in the Defence. I would also state that, although I have read and heard allegations to this effect, I have never myself seen any evidence which has suggested that terrorist training camps actually exist in the Sudanese countryside. I would have refused to take part in any conference in a country that I believed sponsored terrorism of any kind.
126. As far as Osama bin Laden is concerned, I am certain that he was not present at the Khartoum Conference. As I have said, he did not even arrive in Sudan until after the Conference had concluded and the delegates (myself included) had left Khartoum. I have no knowledge of the date upon which bin Laden left Sudan. However, as I have not myself returned to that country since the Conference of August 1991, I would submit that the length of time for which bin Laden remained in Sudan is not material to the present case.
“711(d) In April 1991, in an article in Al-Akida Al-Islamiya, the Claimant called for a Jihad against the West: ‘We have to keep on calling for holy war against the nations of unbelievers who are led by the Jews and Americans and the Westerners and the English and their followers’”
127. I have no recollection of any publication named Al Akida Al Islamiya, still less of writing an article for it. The Defendants have not been able to produce a copy of the article I am supposed to have written. Until they do so, I regret that I cannot say anything on this subject that might help the Court.
“7.12 Throughout the 1990’s cadres and footsoldiers of Al-Nahda were involved in establishing and operating terrorist cells and support activities (including recruitment and training, and trafficking in weapons) in Europe and Afghanistan. Key figures in these activities included: Tarek Maaroufi (see below), Seiffah Ben Hassin (see below) and Mohammed Sliti.”
128. It is simply wrong to say that An Nahda has ever had any ‘cadres,’ ‘footsoldiers’ or ‘terrorist cells’. An Nahda does not operate, nor has it ever operated terrorist cells, support activities, recruitment or training of terrorists or trafficking in weapons, whether in Europe or Afghanistan or anywhere else. Such activities would run contrary to the principle of non-violence that has always been at the very heart of the movement’s philosophy. As I have said previously, I know of many An Nahda members who have sought and obtained asylum in every country of western Europe and I know of none who have sought asylum there and been refused. I am aware from my discussions with the members in question that the authorities of the countries in question have, without exception, conducted detailed investigations into An Nahda upon receiving their applications and that, in many cases, they have been told by the officials dealing with their case that the Tunisian regime has sought to intervene and to persuade the government in question that An Nahda is an organisation of the kind now alleged by the Defendants, with terrorist cells, cadres and the like. However, according to the members with whom I have spoken, the regime’s efforts have, without exception, been unsuccessful and the European governments in question have (like the UK government in my own case) undertaken their own objective enquiries and have reached the conclusion that An Nahda is not a terrorist organisation, but rather exactly what it professes to be, namely a democratic party committed to bringing about peaceful change in Tunisia. It simply defies belief to suggest that a movement “operating terrorist cells and support activities (including recruitment and training, and trafficking in weapons) in Europe” would be treated in this way by the states in question.
129. An Nahda has never had any presence or representation in Afghanistan. For the avoidance of doubt, I confirm that I have myself never been to Afghanistan.
130. I have never met with, spoken with or had any form of communication (direct or indirect) with either Tarek Maaroufi, Seifallah Ben Hassine or Mohammed Sliti. None of these persons is a member of, or has any connection with, An Nahda. I had not heard of any of these individuals until I read of their respective arrests in the Arab press.
131. The Defendants have served Further Information and then Amended Further Information in respect of this sub-paragraph of their Defence. The original Further Information contained a list of individuals alleged to be terrorists who were said to be either members of An Nahda or connected with An Nahda. In the Amended Further Information some of these names have vanished. I believe this is indicative of the way in which the Defendants have approached this case, being willing to advance allegations without substantial evidence to back them up. The Amended Further Information resulted from an Order of the Court requiring the Defendants to give details of the case they advanced in respect of the individuals named in the original Further Information. As far as the individuals whose names “vanished” with the Amended Further Information are concerned, it is clear that these had been referred to in the original Further Information without any evidence being available to the Defendants to back up the suggestion that they were involved in terrorist activity and/or were members of, or otherwise connected with, An Nahda.
132. In the Amended Further Information, the Defendants allege that, in 1989, An Nahda established a covert wing named the Special Apparatus, which contained within its “Central Commission for Information” a “Sport” section which provided training in paramilitary, martial arts and other techniques and was used from about 1990 and thereafter to train cadres of young radical Islamic revolutionaries and send them to Afghanistan where they would be further trained by units of the Afghan mujahidin in small arms, heavier weapons, bombs and the carrying out of assassinations (these cadres being sent to Afghanistan clandestinely via Algeria or Pakistan). This is complete nonsense. No such activities have ever been carried out by An Nahda.
133. The Amended Further Information also refers to the supposed activities of a number of named individuals, upon whom I am able to comment as follows:
· Abderrazak Arroum (said to be a member of An Nahda who led a terrorist cell based in Perpignan, France, before this was dismantled in 1994) – I have never heard of anyone of this name. Certainly, no-one named Abderrazak Arroum has ever been a member of, or associated with, An Nahda.
· Khalil Jerraya (said to have been a member of An Nahda who led a terrorist cell based in Bologna, Italy, before this was dismantled in 1997) – I have never heard of this man and can say that no-one of this name has ever been a member of An Nahda.
· Abedellatif Tlili (said to be a senior member of An Nahda’s “armed wing” and to have been arrested in Germany in 1994 and found to be in possession of false passports and manuals on how to produce explosives) – Abedellatif Tlili is well known as victim of serious torture at the hands of the Tunisian police. He was detained in secret and without charge for 42 days in November and December 1990, during which time he was tortured. Mr Tlili’s case was reported by the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues.I do not know Mr Tlili and have never met with or communicated with him. He has never been a member of An Nahda, although I understand that he is an Islamist. I know nothing of his being arrested in Germany. I believe he lives in that country and has been granted political asylum there.
· Ridha Barouni (said to be a member of An Nahda’s armed wing who was arrested in Germany in 1995 whilst preparing to travel to Sudan, in possession of manuals on how to produce explosives and other compromising material) – Ridha Barouni is a long-term member of An Nahda (although not of any “armed wing”, which is something An Nahda has never possessed). He was formerly an officer in the Tunisian army, and I believe he left Tunisia in or around 1987. He has been granted political asylum in Spain (which, I would submit, he would not have been had the Spanish authorities suspected him of involvement in terrorism). It is my understanding that Barouni was detained by the German authorities during a visit to that country, pursuant to an extradition request received from the Tunisian authorities. Mr Barouni was held for a number of weeks, during which time the Tunisian government did nothing to progress its application for his extradition. Eventually, the German authorities released Mr Barouni. I have never heard it suggested that Mr Barouni’s detention had anything to do with his possession of “compromising material”.
· Abdesalem Rahali and Kamel Ben Moussa (said to be members of An Nahda’s “armed wing” who were arrested in 1993 by the UK authorities “as part of the dismantling of support for Algerian armed groups”). I have never heard of anyone named Abdesalem Rahali and no-one of that name has ever been a member of An Nahda or otherwise associated with the movement. As far as Kamel Ben Moussa is concerned, I have read a newspaper report which suggests that a man of this name was involved in planning the assassination by Al Qaeda of Ahmed Shah Massoud (see paragraph 7.13 of the Defence). I do not, however, know anyone named Kamel Ben Moussa, nor has anyone of that name ever been a member of An Nahda.
· Hassine Daly (said to be a member of An Nahda and a key member of a terrorist group based in Yemen) – I have never heard of, still less had any dealings with, anyone named Hassine Daly. I am certain that no-one of that name has ever been a member of An Nahda or been connected with the movement.
7.13 Ahmed Shah Massoud, the military leader of the Northern Alliance was assassinated by Algerian suicide bombers on 9 September 2001, two days before the 11 September atrocities. Although Al-Qaeda was responsible for the assassination, it was logistically assisted by Tunisian Al-Nahda activities.”
“7.13(a) Tarek Maaroufi was arrested by Belgium police in December 2001 and charged with criminal conspiracy, forgery and recruiting for Al Qaeda. He is a senior representative of Al Qaeda in Europe, and had a central role (along with other Tunisians, including London-based Tunisian Seifallah ben Hassine) in the assassination of Ahmed Shah Massoud.”
“7.13(b) Maaroufi was already wanted by Italian and French authorities for his role in planning bomb attacks in France and elsewhere. He was the head of an Al Qaeda cell based in Milan (which included Essid Sami Ben Khemais, amongst other fellow Tunisians), and was in close contract with another cell based in Frankfurt which was planning to bomb Strasbourg market at Christmas-time 2000”.
“7.13(c) Maaroufi is a senior figure in Al-Nahda (having been one of the leaders of the military wing of the movement) and a close aide of the Claimant. He is also an associate of Al-Nahda activists Walid Bennani, based in Brussels, and Sayed Ferjani, its London representative”
134. It is, of course, correct that Ahmed Shah Massoud, the military leader of the Afghan Northern Alliance, was assassinated on 9 September 2001, two days before the atrocities of 11 September, and that responsibility for his murder was claimed by Al Qaeda. The assassination of Ahmed Shah Massoud was a terrible act which, again, I condemned without reservation at the time it took place.
135. I am aware that a Tunisian named Tarek Maaroufi was arrested in Belgium in December 2001 on suspicion of offences relating to Al Qaeda. However, I have no further knowledge of any kind relating to his activities, his alleged connection with Al Qaeda, his alleged involvement in the murder of Ahmed Shah Massoud or his alleged close involvement with an Al Qaeda cell based in Frankfurt. As I have said above, I have never met with or spoken with or had any other form of communication (directly or indirectly) with Tarek Maaroufi.
136. In the Al Arab article that is the subject of these proceedings reference is made to the fact that Maaroufi’s uncle, Mohammed Al Mouncif Al Warghi, was once my bodyguard. Although the description of Mr Al Warghi as being my bodyguard is inaccurate, it is correct to say that I knew him before I left Tunisia. He was a member of An Nahda. I did not, however, even know that he had a nephew, still less that his nephew was named Tarek Maaroufi and lived in Belgium. I have not had any form of contact with Mr Al Warghi since I left Tunisia. It is my understanding that he has been in prison since the early 1990’s.
137. As I have again said above, I have never met with or spoken with or had any other form of communication (directly or indirectly) with Seifallah ben Hassine. Indeed, as with Tarek Maaroufi, I had never heard of him prior to reading reports of his arrest. As far as Essid Sami Ben Khemais is concerned, I had never heard of this man until I saw his name in the Defence.
138. Far from being a “senior figure”, Tarek Maaroufi has never been a member of An Nahda, nor has he ever been associated with the movement. I have never had any form of contact with him, so he can hardly be described as a “close aide” of mine. As I have said repeatedly above, An Nahda has never had a military wing of any kind. Maaroufi could not therefore have been one of its leaders.
139. Walid Bennani is a senior member of An Nahda, being the Chairman of the movement’s Consultative Council. He lives in Belgium where he has been granted political asylum. Sayed Ferjani is also a senior member of An Nahda. He is a well-known victim of torture at the hands of the Tunisian regime and lives in London, having been granted political asylum by the UK government. Both Mr Bennani and Mr Ferjani tell me that they have never been “associates” of Tarek Maaroufi and I myself know of no reason to suspect that this is not the case.
140. In the Further Information, the Defendants indicate that they also rely on Maaroufi’s “association” with Nizar Trabelsi, who is said to be a member of An Nahda who was arrested in Belgium in late 2001 for his part in a foiled plot to attack the US Embassy in Paris. Nizar Trabelsi is a well-known figure. He is a former professional footballer who was arrested in Belgium on 13 September 2001 on suspicion of involvement in Al Qaeda plans to attack US targets in Belgium and France. A year or so later, newspaper reports stated that Trabelsi had confessed to being a member of Al Qaeda. As far as I am aware, Trabelsi remains in prison in Belgium. Trabelsi is Tunisian. However, he has never been a member of An Nahda or otherwise connected with the movement. I have myself never met or communicated with Trabelsi. If what I have read about him is true, then I condemn his beliefs and actions without the slightest reservation.
“7.13(d) Mohamed Saidani, another Tunisian and member of Al-Nahda, and a former Iman at the Bologna Mosque, provided logistical support (ie managing and training members of terrorist cells) in Europe for Al-Qaeda whilst based in that city. He was extradited from Italy to Tunisia last year in November 2001 was sentenced to two consecutive terms of 10 years’ imprisonment for terrorist activities. He had previously been sentenced to 56 years’ imprisonment in absentia as a result of his connections with Al-Nahda.”
141. My only knowledge of Mohamed Saidani is what I have read in the press to the effect that he is a Tunisian who was extradited from Italy to Tunisia in 2001 and was in November of that year sentenced to a total of 20 years imprisonment. I have also read that Mr Saidani had previously been convicted by a Tunisian court in absentia, although I do not know on what grounds. Whatever may have been alleged by the Tunisian regime, Mohamed Saidani has never been a member of An Nahda or connected with it any way. I have never met, spoken to or corresponded with him. I do not know whether Mr Saidani was an Imam at Bologna Mosque or whether he was involved as alleged in managing or training members of terrorist cells in Europe on behalf of Al Qaeda.
“7.14 In April 2002 the ancient synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia, was targeted by a suicide bomb attack which left 11 dead and more than 30 injured. Al-Nahda claimed responsibility for the attack to the London-based Arab newspapers, Al Quds Al Arabi and Al Hayat, although subsequently more senior members of the Al-Nahda sought to distance Al-Nahda from the attack.”
142. It is correct that on 11 April 2002 an explosion took place next to the synagogue in Djerba, killing 11 people and injuring many more. I myself have no way of knowing whether the explosion was the result of a suicide bombing or other form of terrorist attack. The Tunisian regime initially stated that the explosion had been caused not by a terrorist attack, but by a collision between a fuel tanker and a bus. Subsequently, however, reports appeared in the press indicating that a terrorist attack had occurred and that Al Qaeda had claimed responsibility.
143. If the explosion was the result of a terrorist attack, then An Nahda was no way involved. An Nahda has certainly never claimed responsibility for the explosion, whether to Al Quds Al Arabi or Al Hayat or otherwise. As early as 13 April 2002, Al Hayat publicly denied having received any claim to responsibility from An Nahda. This denial was itself reported by Agence France Presse that same day. Far from claiming responsibility, as soon as An Nahda became aware of suggestions that a terrorist attack had occurred, it issued a press release condemning any such attack in unreserved terms. This press release was issued on 12 April 2002 (a copy was annexed to my Reply).
144. I will turn now to the Defendants’ plea of qualified privilege. Before commenting upon certain of the particulars that appear in the Defence, I would make one general point, namely that, as I have said above, Al Arab is not to be viewed as an objective source of news conveying accurate, properly researched and well-balanced information to its readership. It is a mouthpiece of the RCD regime and should be viewed in the same way as was Pravda during the Soviet era or the state-controlled Iraqi media in the present day. Anyone familiar with the politics of North Africa will know that the Tunisian regime has sought, for many years, to smear me, and An-Nahda, by making allegations to the effect that we are involved in terrorism. The events of 11 September 2001, and the notoriety these gave to Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, gave fresh impetus to this process. The article in question was, in my view, published not pursuant to any “duty” on the Defendants’ part to inform their readers of matters of public interest but rather to do the bidding of the Tunisian regime and to smear its most significant opponents by falsely and dishonestly linking us with Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.
145. In paragraph 8.3 of the Defence reference is made to the “problem” of Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism and Al Qaeda, which, it is suggested, “was a matter of particular and very great concern to readers of Al Arab”. I am somewhat surprised to see the word “problem” used in this way, since, although the activities of Al Qaeda and other Muslim terrorists are certainly deplored by those of us who are committed to achieving change by peaceful means, such activities are not generally condemned on the pages of Al Arab. In fact a number of articles have appeared in that newspaper which actually seem to be supportive of the “work” (to use the word adopted by the Defendants on one occasion) of Osama bin Laden and his fellow terrorists. It is extremely strange, in view of this previous approach, that the Defendants should now claim to have been acting, when publishing their attack upon me, in the context of their readers’ interest in the problems represented by terrorism. Translations of some of the articles published in Al Arab that support Osama bin Laden are attached to this statement.
146. In paragraph 8.5 of the Defence it is suggested that the article of which I complain was supplied to Al Arab by a “reputable” news agency, United Press International, and was written by a “well-known and respectable” journalist, Jomaa el Guesmi. I have no way of knowing whether or not this is correct. I can say that United Press International is certainly not a reputable news agency like Reuters, Associated Press or Agence France Presse. It is, in fact, owned by the Unification Church, a cult generally known as the Moonies. Furthermore, although I am familiar with most journalists covering North African and Arab affairs (and have, in fact, spoken with the majority of them at one time or another), I had never heard of Jomaa el Guesmi before the Al Arab article of 3 January 2002 came to my attention.
147. In their Further Information in respect of the Defence, the Defendants have suggested that they “regularly publish copy supplied by UPI” and that, prior to the article published on 3 January 2002, they had not experienced problems with such copy. I understand that the Defendants were ordered to disclose such previous copy at a hearing on 12 December 2002. However, they have refused to do this and, as a result, I am simply not in a position to comment upon their claim regarding the previous reliability of UPI. I would submit that the Court is similarly placed.
148. In paragraph 8.6 of the Defence it is suggested that the offending article was “based on apparently reliable resources”. The Defendants have refused to identify those sources. I understand that they are entitled to do this under English law. However, I cannot understand why they should wish to do so, unless (assuming these sources ever existed) their identification would demonstrate that they were not reliable, in the sense that they were not likely to be objective but were such as were likely to give information intended to smear opponents of the Tunisian regime.
149. In their “Further Information in respect of the Defence”, the Defendants have responded to a request that they specify the steps they took to verify the information allegedly provided by the supposed sources. Their response is to say that their usual procedure when intending to publish a story of this kind supplied by UPI is to telephone UPI or the journalist concerned and ask about the background to the story with a view to satisfying themselves that it is well-sourced. I would suggest that it is clear from this response that, prior to publishing this attack upon me, the Defendants made no attempt independently to verify the allegations or to check the reliability of the sources. Indeed, I believe that it is evident that, at the time publication took place, even the identity of these supposed sources was not known to the Defendants themselves.
150. It is also said in paragraph 8.6 of the Defence that the Al Arab article “did not adopt” the allegations of linkage between An Nahda and/or myself and Al Qaeda as established fact. This is clearly not correct. Al Arab effectively presented the allegations in question as if they were true and established fact.
151. The allegations that the Defendants chose to publish about me were, I believe, just about as serious as can be. However, no attempt whatsoever was made prior to publication to put any of these allegations to me or to any other An Nahda representative. Indeed, no attempt to contact me was made. I am contacted by journalists on a daily basis. I am extremely easy to contact. My phone number is known to most Arab language newspapers and television and radio stations, and to most journalists, whether Arab or Western, who specialise in North African and Arab affairs. I have my own website through which I can be contacted, as does An Nahda. I was available at the beginning of January 2002 and could certainly have been contacted. Even had I been unavailable, other members of An Nahda could have been contacted, who would either have been able to locate me or to respond to Al Arab’s allegations on my behalf and on behalf of the movement.
152. The fact of the matter is that the Defendants made no attempt to contact me prior to publication because they had no interest in providing their readers with my comments as part of a balanced piece of journalism. The task they undertook was to smear An Nahda and myself by linking us with Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda and Tarek Maaroufi. To have sought my comments and then to incorporated these into their article would have been entirely inconsistent with the exercise in “black propaganda” that the Defendants were in the process of carrying out.
153. Even if the Defendants had made unsuccessful attempts to contact me, there were a number of matters that were already in the public domain that could have been introduced into their article in order to introduce an element of balance. The repeated rejection of violence and public commitment to peaceful change that had been expressed both by myself and by An Nahda (and its predecessors) over the previous 20 years could not but be known to the Defendants. As I have said, An Nahda issued a press release unequivocally condemning the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2002 on the day they occurred. Ten days later I wrote an open letter to the American Ambassador in Tunisia (itself issued as a press release) in which I described the events of 11 September 2002 as a crime against humanity and called for the punishment of those responsible. No reference to any of these matters (all of which must have been known to the Defendants) was made in the offending article. Similarly the fact that I had been granted political asylum in the United Kingdom (which, I repeat, would not have happened or been continued had there been any evidence or grounds for suspicion that I had been involved in any way in terrorism or had incited or condoned terrorism), will certainly have been known to the Defendants. Reference to this fact would have served to introduce at least some small element of balance to the article. No such reference was, however, made. Again, I believe that it is clear that the Defendants did not refer to any of these matters because to have done so would have been inconsistent with their purpose of publishing the article, which was to smear An Nahda and myself in the manner long used by the RCD of falsely associating us with terrorism.
154. Al Arab is, of course, published in London as well as in Tunisia. Houni Limited and Al Arab Publishing House Limited (the printer and publisher of Al Arab) are both UK-registered companies and, although Ahmed Salhin El-Houni now lives in Tunisia, it is my understanding that, until comparatively recently, he lived in London and had done so for many years. I would submit that it is inconceivable that, as at January 2002, the Defendants will have been unaware of apologies to me that had previously been published in no fewer than four London-based newspapers – namely The Sunday Telegraph, Al Wasat, Asharq Al Awsat and The Sunday Express – following publication of allegations that I was involved in terrorism (copies of all four apologies have been disclosed to the Defendants). The Defendants knowledge that previous allegations of terrorism had been followed by the withdrawal of those allegations and the publication of unequivocal apologies ought, I believe, to have caused them, even on the case that is set out in the Defence, to proceed with extreme caution and to ensure that they obtained my version of events prior to publication. These four apologies clearly showed that I had previously been the subject of attempts to smear me and, indeed (in the case of the apology published in the Sunday Express) that such attempts had been prompted by the Tunisian Embassy in London. At best, the Defendants’ failure to heed the warning provided by these previous apologies showed an irresponsibility which, given the seriousness of the allegations which they were about to publish, is astonishing. However, it is, as I have said, my belief that the Defendants had, in any event, no intention whatsoever of publishing a responsible piece of journalism and that the previous apologies had no bearing at all upon their real purpose, which was to smear me by associating me with the most notorious terrorist in the world. It is, I believe, for this same reason that no reference to the previous apologies was made in the article of 3 January 2002 itself, as such a reference would have introduced an element of balance which the Defendants simply did not wish to present to their readers.
155. I understand that, under English law, a newspaper is entitled to publish allegations, even if untrue, provided that such publication is, in effect, in the public interest and that the newspaper has, prior to publication, conducted itself reasonably. I do not accept that publication of allegations as serious as these, namely of involvement in terrorism, can have been in the public interest where proper research and independent verification had not been undertaken, where the reliability of sources was not checked, where the subject of those allegations was not given a proper opportunity to comment upon them prior to publication and where no attempt was made to present those allegations in a fair and balanced way. The fact that these criteria are not satisfied is of little surprise when one considers that Al Arab is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the RCD controlled Tunisian government whose most long-standing opponent I am. Just as fair and balanced journalism concerning Saddam Hussein’s opponents cannot be expected of the present day state-controlled Iraqi media and just as, during the Soviet era, Russian dissidents could not expect to be treated in an even-handed fashion by Pravda and similar Communist Party-controlled newspapers, so one cannot sensibly expect Al Arab (which reports Tunisian affairs in the most sycophantic fashion imaginable) to attempt to introduce balance when reporting supposed links between An Nahda and Al Qaeda.
156. At the end of the Defence it is alleged that, even if the Al Arab article did libel me, I should not be entitled to any award of damages because I have “a general bad reputation”. I find this assertion highly offensive. It is, furthermore, entirely untrue.
157. I have spoken at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), at Oxford University and at numerous institutions and universities within the United Kingdom of similar repute. I am regularly contacted by academics and serious journalists undertaking research into Islamic political philosophy or Arab affairs. As I have already said, I am also contacted by representative of western European governments, asking for my certification that given individuals are members of An Nahda. In addition, I have dealings with Western governments seeking my opinions upon developments in the Islamic and Arab world. Most recently, as I have again already mentioned, I was one of a group of prominent Muslims who were invited to meet the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It is inconceivable that such bodies and people would associate with me in this way if I really did have the reputation that the Defendants allege.
158. I have written many articles and given many interviews that have been published in the United Kingdom and in the rest of Europe. A number of my books have also been published both in the West and in the Arab world. I would submit that it is on these articles, interviews and books that my reputation amongst those who do not know me personally must primarily be based and these publications clearly show me not to be the supporter of terrorism and extremism portrayed in the Defence but an advocate of democracy, pluralism, human rights and peaceful change and an opponent of violence and oppression wherever it occurs. Whilst it is, of course, difficult to speak of how other people view oneself, I believe that this is the general reputation I genuinely have.
159. I am aware of only four articles published previously by UK-based newspapers which have made allegations as serious as those which appeared in the Al Arab article of 3 January 2002. Copies of these four previous articles – which were those previously referred to as being published in The Sunday Telegraph, Al Wasat, Asharq Al Awsat and The Sunday Express – have been disclosed to the Defendants, as have the apologies which, in every case, were thereafter obtained from the newspapers in question by my solicitors. Previous attacks on me have thus been corrected and the harm done to my reputation in the eyes of the public has thereby been cured.
160. The final point I would make in response to the Defendants’ allegations concerning my general reputation is one that I have made a number of times previously in this statement, namely that, if I had the reputation alleged, I would not have been granted political asylum in this country and/or my indefinite leave to remain would not have been continued. The law in the United Kingdom is now such that anyone who was believed to be “an extreme Islamic fundamentalist who inspires and/or condones acts of Islamic terrorism” would simply not be permitted to remain in this country. My continued entitlement to remain in the United Kingdom represents, I would submit, the most conclusive proof that I do not have the reputation suggested by the Defendants.
161. I saw the Al Arab article that is the subject of these proceedings very shortly after it was published on 3 January 2002. I believe it goes without saying that I found it extremely upsetting. An allegation that an individual is involved in terrorism is, I believe, one of the most serious that can be made. Furthermore, although I had, for many years, suffered RCD-inspired slurs to this effect, the suggestion that I was connected with Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda was, given the scale of the atrocities they have carried out, of a different order entirely.
162. It was and is particularly distressing to me that these lies appeared in a newspaper published in the United Kingdom. This country has provided me with sanctuary and the way in which I am viewed by the British public is therefore of special importance to me. It has been hard enough being a Muslim refugee in the United Kingdom since the events of 11 September 2001, without it being alleged that you individually played a part in those events. Furthermore, although I believe the UK government will have been aware that the Defendants’ article was, in effect, planted by the Tunisian regime I am obviously concerned that, if the allegation of my involvement with Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda were to gain currency among the British public, it is possible that the government would come under pressure to revoke the political asylum it has granted to me. If this were to happen, then the possible consequences would be disastrous for me.
163. I am aware that this aspect of matters is particularly distressing to my family. My wife and I have six children and we have been forced to bring up our family thousands of miles from home. The persistent attempts of the Tunisian regime to persuade the UK government to expel us from the country are extremely stressful for all of us. There is no doubt in our minds that the Al Arab article of 3 January 2002 represents part of this process. It goes without saying that the distress caused to my family by the offending article only increases the anxiety it has caused me personally.
164. The fact that the Defendants’ article formed part of an overall political strategy intended to discredit me is also distressing. All journalists make occasional inadvertent mistakes and I am generally able to forgive these. However, as I have said above, there is no doubt in my mind that the Defendants had no intention to report the truth or to produce an article that was balanced and objective (I refer, in this respect, to what is said above in respect of the Defendants’ plea of qualified privilege). Their behaviour was thus, in my eyes, unforgivable.
165. The fact that, in publishing the offending article, the Defendants chose simply to ignore the fact that, on no fewer than four previous occasions, articles alleging that I was involved in terrorist activities had resulted in the publication of apologies is extremely upsetting. It makes me wonder if there is anything I can do to nail the lie, while there are publications around willing to do the bidding of my political opponents.
166. The distress caused to me by the original publication of the article has been aggravated by the Defendants’ conduct since my solicitors wrote to them on 5 February 2002 drawing their attention to the untrue nature of the allegations that had been published and asking, amongst other things, that they agree to publish an apology. It is clear from their Defence that the Defendants are completely unable to substantiate the suggestion I am connected in some way with Osama bin Laden or Al Qaeda. They have been forced to resort to attempts to smear me, no doubt in the hope that they will thereby be able to persuade a jury to find against me, whatever the facts of the matter. They have refused to apologise or to retract the untrue allegations which they published. They have not even informed their readers that I have objected to what was written about me.
167. This statement is true to the best of my knowledge and belief.
Amm Ali, l’ermite de Moknine évoque Abdelaziz Ben Dhia, dans un texte de Omar Khayyam en 2001
Amm Ali ne rate aucune occasion pour vilipender les responsables politiques tunisiens et arabes, qui ne sont pour lui que des agents des Français, des Britanniques et des USA. Mais celui qu’il abhorre le plus est certainement ce Mokninien de la honte, ce valet qui s’appelle Abdelaziz Ben Dhia. Les Mokniniens l’appellent » rass el-l’ham » (cancre ou débile). A cause de sa servilité et de son » lèche-bottisme « , Amm Ali le compare aux Grands Eunuques des sultans turcs. »
( Amm Ali l’ermite de Moknine par O.K.)
Amm Ali, l’ermite de Moknine
Je serai reconnaissant jusqu’au dernier jour de ma vie à mon ami Roufa qui m’a fait connaître ce trésor qui s’appelle Amm Ali. Je ne sais par où commencer. Tout est intéressant dans cet homme : sa personnalité, l’histoire de sa vie, ses idées politiques, sa philosophie de la vie, sa culture, sa vue un peu particulière de la religion et son attachement indéfectible à son arabité et a sa tunisianité.
Amm Ali est un philosophe qui n’a jamais écrit un seul mot. Ce Socrate moderne écrit sa philosophie par ses actes et son mode de vie. Il est une légende vivante à Moknine. A 74 ans, il garde la vigueur physique et l’acuité intellectuelle d’un jeune homme de trente ans. Il a vécu sous quatre beys : Moncef, Lamine, Habib et Zine. Le mot » République » le fait sourire. Un sourire malin plus expressif que mille discours. Ancien étudiant de la Zeitouna, il sort directement de Bab Souika des années quarante avec ses cafés-chantants, ses théâtres et ses intellos bohémiens (Jamaât taht essour). Amm Ali ne cache pas sa nostalgie pour cet âge d’or culturel et artistique. Les journaux et les revues de tout genre se comptaient par dizaines, les théâtres et les cinémas ne désemplissaient pas et fumer un joint était un acte aussi inoffensif que boire un petit verre de Boukha chez le vieux Cohen.
Pourtant, Amm Ali n’était pas le genre de » junkie » à passer ses journées et ses nuits enfermé dans des » paradis artificiels « . Dès que les Palestiniens ont appelé les Arabes à l’aide en 1947, il a été parmi les premiers volontaires à mettre le cap sur Beyrouth. L’aventure s’était, malheureusement, arrêtée là. C’était l’une des plus grandes frustrations de sa vie. Arrivé au Liban, il a été empêché par les Français de prendre le chemin de la Palestine pour renforcer les rangs des combattants arabes.
Après l' »indépendance » (Amm Ali arbore un sourire énigmatique dès qu’on prononce ce mot), on lui a proposé le poste d’agent de la Garde Nationale. Son » niet » était sans appel. Il n’a jamais regretté son choix. Le futur va lui donner raison. D’ailleurs, un Mokninien de sa génération, quasi-analphabète, est parti à la retraite avec le grade de colonel de la Garde Nationale !
Non, il ne regrette rien. Amm Ali ne badine pas avec les principes. Il est l’un des rares Tunisiens à boycotter sciemment Coca Cola, car elle représente pour lui le signe le plus ostentatoire de l’impérialisme américain auquel il voue une haine qui n’a d’égal que son amour pour la culture et l’identité arabes. La télé ne lui dit rien et il ne jure qu par la radio. Mais il n’écoute jamais les programmes nationaux ou gouvernementaux arabes, car elles ne font que » tamjid el hakem » (l’éloge du dictateur). Sa station préférée est la Deutsche Welle en arabe (Saout Almania).
Plusieurs zeitouniens de sa génération ont essayé, au début des années soixante, de se recycler en prenant des cours de français à Bourguiba School. Ce n’était pas le cas de Amm Ali. Les langues étrangères lui sont toujours restées étrangères. Puisqu’il y a des traducteurs pourquoi se casser la tête. Il est, d’ailleurs, un lecteur assidu du quotidien Al Quds al-Arabi et de la revue littéraire libanaise Al Aadaab.
Amm Ali est un artiste dans l’âme. Par manque d’enthousiasme pour les matières religieuses, il n’a pas terminé ses études à la Zeitouna. Il était » tayyarji » (joueur de tar) au sein d’une troupe de malouf amateur qui s’est effilochée avec le temps. Il tient à préciser qu’il n’a jamais touché au bendir.
A l’époque de la ruée vers les postes politiques, Amm Ali n’a été tenté ni par le bourguibisme, ni par le bensalhisme des années soixante. Il n’a jamais été membre du PSD ou du RCD. Certes, il a des penchants socialistes et arabisants, mais Michel Aflak ne l’aurait pas accepté dans son parti pan-arabe, car Amm Ali n’est pas fait pour être un apparatchik. Il revendique son identité arabo-islamique plus par ses actes et son mode de vie que par des slogans bidons. Il n’a quitté ses habits traditionnels qu’une seule fois, pendant un éphémère séjour en France. Il est un Tunisien inclassable. Arabe et fier de l’être, il est l’ennemi de tous: des occidentalistes bourguibiens, des obscurantistes islamistes et de toutes les monarchies et républiques bananières arabes.
Amm Ali ne rate aucune occasion pour vilipender les responsables politiques tunisiens et arabes, qui ne sont pour lui que des agents des Français, des Britanniques et des USA. Mais celui qu’il abhorre le plus est certainement ce Mokninien de la honte, ce valet qui s’appelle Abdelaziz Ben Dhia. Les Mokniniens l’appellent » rass el-l’ham » (cancre ou débile). A cause de sa servilité et de son » lèche-bottisme « , Amm Ali le compare aux Grands Eunuques des sultans turcs.
Avant son » immigration intérieure « , Amm Ali a exercé les métiers les plus divers, mais il a toujours refusé de travailler avec le » hakem » (l’Etat). Au début des années soixante-dix il a tenté sa chance à Paris. C’était » l’âge d’or » de l’émigration vers l’Europe. On débarquait en France sans visa et les jobs ne manquaient pas. La ville des lumières l’a laissé indifférent. Exactement comme Mikhaïl Nuaïmé débarquant à New York au début du XXème siècle, Amm Ali n’a été ni ravi ni ébahi par la » Civilisation « . L’inconfort des vêtements occidentaux n’a fait qu’augmenter sa frustration. Son séjour parisien ne dépassa pas deux mois.
Dès que le dernier de ses enfants a atteint l’âge de la majorité, il prit une décision qui changea sa vie. Amm Ali décida de quitter la ville de Moknine pour s’établir à la campagne. Fils de fellah et héritier de quelques centaines d’oliviers et d’une modeste maison de campagne, le rêve d’un » retour aux sources » le caressait depuis sa prime jeunesse. A l’heure où des dizaines de milliers de Tunisiens » brûlaient » vers l’Europe, Amm Ali a choisi la voie de l’immigration intérieure.
Chaque visite rendue à Amm Ali dans son » repaire » est l’occasion d’une joie renouvelée. Pourtant, sa maison de campagne n’offre pas le confort auquel s’attend le commun des citadins. Il n’y a ni électricité, ni eau courante. La télé, la parabole et Internet peuvent encore attendre aux portes de sa citadelle. Il vit en compagnie d’une meute de chiens pur-sang arabe, de poules AOC (Arabité d’Origine Contrôlée) et d’un petit troupeau de moutons.
Amm Ali n’est ni athée ni incroyant, mais sa conception de la religion est tout à fait particulière. Il considère le pèlerinage à la Mecque comme un acte païen et croit plutôt au pèlerinage de l’esprit (al hajj al akli), évoqué pour la première fois par Abou Hayyan Attawhidi. Il m’a dit que ces ignorants qui vont à la Mecque et à Médine sont en train de donner leur argent aux Américains par le biais de leurs pions saoudiens. Il ne donne aucune importance aux cultes et aux pratiques religieuses. D’après lui, lorsqu’on atteint un certain degré de foi, toute cette gymnastique quotidienne qu’on appelle prière devient superflue. Amm Ali ne dit jamais non aux boissons » spirituelles » et rappelle que l’imam Abou Hanifa a prononcé une fatwa légalisant le » nabidh » (vin).
Pendant ma dernière visite à Amm Ali, il m’a dit qu’auparavant un seul coq suffisait pour satisfaire tout un harem de poules. Maintenant il a sept coqs pour onze poules. Je lui ai répondu, en plaisantant, que la combinaison 7-11 n’est pas un signe évident de fertilité ! J’invite par la même occasion nos vétérinaires à étudier ce phénomène étrange de manque de virilité chez la nouvelle génération de coqs tunisien.
Moknine, le 9 Janvier 2001.
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