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Tunisia judiciary investigates alleged US funding of presidential election campaign

Tunisian President Kais Saied speaks during a ceremony in Tunis, Tunisia on March 22, 2021 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]
Tunisian President Kais Saied speaks during a ceremony in Tunis, Tunisia on March 22, 2021 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]

Fawzi Al-Daas, the director of Tunisian President Kais Saied's 2019 election campaign, announced that the military judiciary had opened an investigation on 20 April into accusations made by MP Rached Khiari. Khiari has alleged that Saied received US funding to boost his chances of winning the presidency, sparking widespread controversy in the country.

Al-Daas disclosed in statements published by the official news agency: "I was summoned today (Tuesday) as a witness before the prosecutor's office of the military court after opening an investigation about a video published by MP Rached Khiari, on Monday night on his Facebook page." Al-Daas indicated that Khiari accused him of receiving foreign funding via postal orders for the benefit of the head of state who took office on 23 October, 2019, and that he has documents to prove it.

Al-Daas refused to provide more details about the case, stating: "The file is now before the court."

On 19 April, Al-Daas announced that he had decided to sue Khiari for accusing him of receiving foreign funds during the election campaign of President Saied in 2019.

Khiari confirmed in a video that Saied received $5 million from a US intelligence officer during the term of former US President Donald Trump to fund his election campaign. He further noted that he had a videotape and audio recordings: "Confirming that Al-Daas is the one who received this money via postal orders."

Khiari added: "The party that financed Saied's campaign handed him the proof, after the president changed his allegiance from the Americans to the French side," while calling on the judiciary to investigate the file.

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The Tunisian MP also accused Saied and Al-Daas of committing crimes against the state security that violate the sanctity of the homeland and annul the results of the last presidential election.

Khiari asserted that Saied had initially committed to protecting US interests in Tunisia before disavowing this agreement and changing his position in support of France.

The deputy noted that he is ready to stand before the judiciary against the president if he accepts to waive immunity, stating that Saied's son received a phone call from the US reassuring him of his father's victory in the presidential race before the results of the elections were announced.

The accusations brought by Khiari against the Tunisian president come in light of an ongoing political crisis between Saied and Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, since the latter announced a government reshuffle on 16 January that parliament later approved.

However, Saied has not invited the new ministers to swear the oath of office to date, under the pretext that the cabinet reshuffle was marred by "violations".

It should be noted that the victory of Saied, a former university professor who does not belong to any political party, came as a big surprise after obtaining the majority of votes (72.71 per cent) in the second round of the 2019 presidential election against his rival, Nabil Karoui, leader of Heart of Tunisia Party.

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