Ben Ali accused demonstrators in the centre of the country of
“unpardonable terrorist acts” on January 10, two days after Tunisian
security forces had begun deliberately killing protesters in the centre of the country. The Libyan leader’s son, Saadi Gaddafi, told the Financial Times
on Wednesday that bombing in the east of Libya was necessary because
“thousands” of al-Qaeda fighters were taking control of the region. His
father elaborated on these allegations in a speech on Thursday night, accusing Osama bin Laden of brainwashing, and even drugging, the country’s youth.
Ghezali points to Gaddafi’s most recent threats to end his
co-operation on immigration, as well as his attempts to blame protests
on al-Qaeda, as a particularly “ludicrous” example of what has become a
standard form of blackmail.
The first suggestion that Western leaders may be moving to untangle
themselves from the increasingly awkward baggage of their ‘war on
terror’ ties to North Africa came during William Hague’s visit to
Tunisia, on February 8, as the uprising in Egypt was well underway.
In response to a question from Al Jazeera, the British foreign
secretary acknowledged that it was time to move beyond the
Hague also distanced his government from Tunisia’s controversial
anti-terrorism law, which has long drawn criticism from rights activists
who argued that it was used to imprison political dissidents.
“We hope that legislation will comply with international laws on
human rights, will respect freedom of expression, and of course we hope
in any country that anti-terror laws are not used to stifle legitimate
political debate and activity,” Hague said.
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