The Congress for the Republic (CPR) and the People’s Movement parties organized a peaceful protest yesterday, January 14, in front of the Saudi Arabian Embassy to demand the extradition and trial of former president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.
Mohamed Brahmi, member of the People’s Movement, declared to Tunisia Live that the former president tops the list of those most wanted for wrongdoings associated with the Ben Ali regime. However, yesterday’s calls for Ben Ali’s extradition were more symbolic since Saudi authorities have already made known their stance on the matter.
After Ben Ali was granted asylum in 2011, Saudi officials explained that the extradition of the Tunisian ex-president was not only diplomatically unfair, given Ben Ali’s right to seek political refuge, but also incompatible with the norms of Arab hospitality.
Brahmi understood well the low probability that Saudi authorities would return the toppled president.
“There is no country that accepts to give away political refugees to the governments seeking them due to fears of torture,” he said. “Other than Tunisia, which gave away (former Libyan prime minister) Baghdadi Mahmoudi in a financial transaction,” he added.
Yet, Brahmi does not find Saudi Arabia’s stance to be entirely a matter of principle. Pointing to the Gulf country’s history of human rights violations, Brahmi traced its position on Ben Ali’s extradition to an alternative motive: “the absence of a higher command.”
“Saudi would have not slacked off in extraditing Ben Ali, had the U.S. given them the command to do so,” Brahmi claimed.
The Saudi Arabian embassy declined to provide Tunisia Live with any comment.
In response to concerns that Ben Ali would face an unfair trial at home, both parties have stressed that calls for his extradition are not built upon vengeance but rather a desire to fulfill popular demands. Two years after the revolution, Tunisia has the prerequisites to hold a fair trial, declared Mahdi Ammar, a National Constituent Assembly member affiliated with CPR, to state news agency TAP.