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Tunisia issues further arrest warrants in fight against corruption

Youssef Chahed, Tunisia's Prime Minister addressing the Tunisian parliament on 26 August, 2016 [File photo]
Youssef Chahed, Tunisia's Prime Minister addressing the Tunisian parliament [File photo]

A Tunisian security official and director of counter-terrorism, yet to be named, are the latest figures to be arrested in the country’s fight against corruption. The security official is accused of having links with Yassine Channoufi, a major businessman arrested on suspicion of corruption, embezzlement and attacks on state security.

“A warrant of committal has been issued against the director general of tourism security and the former director of the counter-terrorism unit at a police station in Gorjani, near Tunis,” a senior government official, who wished to remain anonymous, told AFP.

“In the war against corruption, there is no alternative. It is either corruption or the state,” Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said last week.

Read: Anti-corruption protests in Tunisia continue

His declarations took place following a series of arrests of personalities from the business world and customs officials for “attacking state security ” and “corruption”. Among those arrested is Chafik Jarraya, a wealthy businessman who made a fortune from the regime of ousted President Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali.

The announcement of the arrest of Chafik Jarraya has tainted the wider public view that such individuals, who have publicly boasted they can buy parliamentarians, judges and journalists, are untouchable.

More than six years after the Jasmine revolution, which led to the dismissal of President Ben Ali, the government’s hands-on operation has offered a boost of hope to a country facing many problems, including terrorism.

Read: Thousands of Tunisians march against corruption amnesty law

According to Tunisian Judge Ahmed Souab, Jarraya is one of four names “who are the pillars of corruption in Tunisia”. Souab estimated that by issuing warrants against these four names Tunisia would get rid of “80 per cent of the system of corruption plaguing the country”.

The head of the government today needs the support of Tunisian citizens and civil society to succeed,

Souab added.

“It is not enough to declare war, especially against widespread corruption…  it is important to plan the best strategy to win it, and above all to use assets to eradicate the evil at the root,” Farhat Othman, a former Tunisian diplomat said.

Mandatory reforms of Tunisian legislation, which Othman considers “obsolete” and carrying “unjust and illegitimate laws,” is needed.

The abolition of scoundrel laws will only strengthen the fight against corruption, which feeds on the injustice of the legislative framework. Limiting oneself to fighting against some well-known heads of corruption in the country without tearing out the roots that allow them to exist and to multiply is to fail miserably in this war.

If the government manages to win the declared war on corruption Tunisia would have much to gain economically, which will in turn have a positive impact on the ranking of Tunisia in the index of perception of corruption, according to the director general of the Foreign Investment Promotion Agency Khalil Laâbidi.

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