Some 50 Tunisian lawyers filed a lawsuit yesterday against the Head of Government, Youssef Chahed, over suspicion that he receiving money from the UK to improve his image and distort the country's recent social protests.
Nizar Boujalal, coordinator of the group of 50 lawyers, said during a news conference in the capital Tunis that "the complaint concerns the Tunisian government's receipt of funds from Britain outside the legal framework to hire an advertising company that would distort the peaceful protests in the country."
He added that if its is proved that the funds were obtained illegally, "the penalties may reach capital punishment."
"The British parliament decided to open an investigation into the matter, and the Tunisian parliament has also set up a committee to investigate the case," Boujalal added.
In early July, the British newspaper the Guardian reported that the British government had paid money to an international advertising company to run a campaign to support the Tunisian government, following protests against increasing prices across the country.
The British Embassy in Tunisia denied the claims.The embassy clarified: "We were disappointed with manipulated media reports, which distorted the Kingdom's position. The British government provides technical assistance to Tunisia through development programmes that help the public sector deal with the Tunisian people in a transparent manner."
In a previous press statement, Tunisian government spokesman Iyad Dahmani denied the report and stressed that the Tunisian government "has never contracted with any advertising company in connection with the country's social protests."
Tunisia is expected to hold elections next year.