The Court of First Instance in Tunis ordered yesterday the release of Ali al-Harzi, suspected of involvement in the U.S. Consulate attack in Benghazi on September 11, confirmed the defendant’s lawyer, Anoir Ouled Ali.
“His release is temporary and conditional,” Ouled Ali said.
Al-Harzi remains under judicial control as he is still charged with belonging to a terrorist group, pointed out his lawyer. Under this arrangement, he cannot leave the metropolitan governorates of Tunis, Manouba, Ben Arous, and Ariana until he is finally acquitted by the Court of Appeals.
Tahar al-Harzi, the father of the Tunisian suspect in the deadly Benghazi attack, spoke to Tunisia Live by phone about the release of his son, Ali.
“We are happy that Ali is finally released, yet our joy is incomplete. We will be fully happy only if they announce his innocence,” Ali’s father said.
The decision comes after his lawyers made an official request on January 4 to the case’s investigative judge to release Al-Harzi, whom they claim did not participate in the attacks that resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. officials.
Tahar maintained his son’s innocence and stated his belief that Ali was arrested since his brother Tarak is suspected of links with a terrorist network in Iraq.
The father recounted that his other son, Tarak, went to Iraq in 2003 to fight American soldiers following the U.S.-led invasion of the country. Tarak is currently serving a 15-year jail sentence in Iraq, said his father.
While speaking about Tarak’s decision to go to Iraq in 2003, Tahar touched upon one of the meanings of the Islamic term, Jihad, which refers to the physical struggle against the enemies of Islam.
“Jihad is not terrorism; it is God’s rules, and we, as true muslims, have to obey these divine rules,” said the father.
The follow up on the Benghazi consulate attack has attracted U.S. media attention, and the U.S. State Department confirmed yesterday that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton intends to testify on the September 11 attack, reported the Los Angeles Times.
Ali Al-Harzi originally refused to be interrogated by FBI agents. Tunisia’s Ministry of Justice, though, urged the suspect to accede to the requests by FBI agents for an interrogation.
Ouled Ali stated that al-Harzi’s lawyers were pressured into convincing the defendant to meet with FBI agents.
“They put a lot of pressure on us, making the decision of his release very dependent on the meeting with the american agents. So, we gave in to their pressure, and al-Harzi met them about two weeks ago,” said Ouled Ali. The interrogation lasted around three hours in the office of the investigative judge, said the lawyer.
Al-Harzi was detained while trying to enter Turkey after the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and later deported to Tunisia in October.