Tunisian MP investigated for terror apology after Facebook post

Mohsen Dali, a Tunis prosecutor, said that a court had charged “a team specialised in terrorism with looking into the content of the post,” although a full judicial enquiry has not yet been opened.
Tuesday 20/10/2020
This file picture shows Islamist Tunisian MP Rached Khiari flashing a four-finger gesture used by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood invoking “Rabia”, recalling the mass-killing of  protesters after the 2013 overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi. (AFP)
This file picture shows Islamist Tunisian MP Rached Khiari flashing a four-finger gesture used by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood invoking “Rabia”, recalling the mass-killing of protesters after the 2013 overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi. (AFP)

TUNIS –Tunisian authorities said Monday police are investigating an MP who in a Facebook post appeared to defend the beheading of a French teacher who had shown his pupils satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

Teacher Samuel Paty, who used the cartoons during a lesson on freedom of expression, was murdered in the street outside his school on Friday afternoon, sparking outrage and countrywide rallies supporting freedom of expression in France.

Tunisian MP Rached Khiari, an independent aligned with the far-right Islamist political grouping the Dignity Coalition, wrote on Facebook the next day: “Insulting the prophet of God is the greatest of crimes and anyone who commits it, whether a state, a group or an individual, must accept the consequences.”

Khiari’s blunder is not the first of its kind. When running the Islamist news website Al Sada, he was repeatedly sued in Tunisia for defamation.

Reacting to the Tunisian MP’s publication, France’s former Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau, who is now a member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the liberal Renew Europe group, tweeted “This is what an accomplice of an assassin looks like.”

The portrait of slain teacher Samuel Paty with a black ribbon is displayed Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020 on the steps of the National Assembly in Paris. (AP)
The portrait of slain teacher Samuel Paty with a black ribbon is displayed Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020 on the steps of the National Assembly in Paris. (AP)

“Tunisian MP Rached Khiari justifies the murder of the French teacher by a takfirist,” she added.

The political grouping with which Khiari is aligned is part of the North African country’s governing coalition. It is a main concern within political circles in the country amid fears about the role it could possibly play in the future.

The party is viewed by many as a shadowy political grouping of radical Islamists. It won significant support in last year’s parliamentary elections after adopting violent discourse that further fragmented the country’s political class.

Khiari’s comments on the French attack sparked heated debate on social media in Tunisia.

Mohsen Dali, a Tunis prosecutor, said that a court had charged “a team specialised in terrorism with looking into the content of the post,” although a full judicial enquiry has not yet been opened.

Khiari has said he is ready to give up his parliamentary immunity.

Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi voiced his condolences in a Saturday phone call with his French counterpart Jean Castex, stressing that Tunisia rejects “all forms of extremism and terrorism” and defends the right to “freedom of expression and belief.”