U.S. Congressman Frank Wolf called yesterday for the U.S. to withhold aid to Tunisia until local authorities provide American investigators access to a suspect held in association with the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya three months ago.
Wolf, a member of the House State and Foreign Operations subcommittee who is in his 16th term in office, accused Tunisia of blocking access to the Tunisian-born suspect.
“These unnecessary and unfounded delays are inexcusable and demonstrate that Tunisia is no friend or ally of the United States,” the Republican representative from Virginia wrote in a public letter addressed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Ali al-Harzi was detained in Turkey and extradited to Tunisia in October, suspected of partaking in the September 11 attack on the consulate that left four people dead, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.
U.S. investigators, including members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, arrived in Tunisia to interrogate the suspect, but they returned to the U.S. earlier this month, according to Wolf.
Wolf joins U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham in invoking U.S. aid to Tunisia, which Wolf said adds up to $300 million annually, to pressure Tunisian authorities to open access to al-Harzi. In a letter to Tarek Amri, the Tunisian charge d’affaires in Washington D.C., Graham wrote in October that the partnership between the two countries could be in “serious jeopardy.”
In his letter to Clinton, Wolf added, “Should you fail to cut off this aid, I will take appropriate legislative action to end U.S. aid to Tunisia.”
A lawyer for al-Harzi, Anoir Ouled Ali, said earlier this month that al-Harzi has refused to be interrogated by U.S. investigators without members of his legal team present.
Paul Rosenfeld contributed reporting