By Houda Mzioudet.
Tunis, 2 May 2015:
The Tunisian government has sent an investigative judge and terrorism experts to Beida to investigate claims . . .[restrict]that Tunisian journalists Sofiane Choruabi and Nadhir Gtari have been murdered by the Islamic State (IS).
The Libya government announced on Wednesday that a captured IS gunman had revealed that the two had been executed some time ago, as had the five members of a Cyrenaica TV team. Yesterday, acting Libyan Interior Minister Ahmed Barka confirmed to private Tunisian TV station Al Hiwar Ettounsi the deaths of the two.
The Tunisian judge is expected to question the gunman, said to be an Egyptian.
Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni had earlier met with Ibrahim Rezgui, Tunisian consul in Tripoli who had flown to Beida, and promised that his administration would facilitate the Tunisian investigation team’s work.
In Tunisia, there is growing anger at news of the two reporters’ deaths and a suspicion that the Tunisian government has not been telling the truth about the matter. Ever since the two were seized last September, it has consistently suggested that it was in contact with the kidnappers and that both men were alive. In January, IS claimed to have executed the two but the Tunisian authorities insisted at the time that that they were still alive, suggesting that they themselves were in contact with the abductors.
Many Tunisians are now convinced that both men are dead and that the Tunisian government, particularly the Foreign Affairs Ministry, has been deceiving them by neither confirming nor denying the news of their deaths.
Yesterday family and friends of Choruabi and Gtari, as well as journalists and political activists, gathered in the capital’s Avenue Habib Bourguiba, accusing the Tunisian government of incompetence in the case and demanding that it shed the light on the journalists’ fate. They also condemned what they said was the silence of Tunisian authorities’ handling of the case. There was anger too at lack of an official statement from either the Tunisian presidency or Prime Ministry’s office.
The dispatch of the investigative team to Libya by Tunisian Prime Minister, Habib Essid is seen as a belated attempt to address the matter.
Two days ago, the National Union of Tunisian Journalists refused the Libyan government’s condolences on the journalists’ deaths, demanding that Libyan authorities give “the necessary confirmations concerning the news of the death of Chourbai and Gtari”.
Its president, Naji Bghouri also said the case had been used for political purposes and that Tunisia had an “ethical and legal responsibility” to discover what had happened to the journalists. At a press conference in the union’s headquarters in Tunis, he further expressed mistrust in the Libyan authorities regarding the case.
Bghouri declined to comment to the Libya Herald.
Meanwhile, reports that the foreign affairs and information ministers of the Libya Dawn regime in Tripoli yesterday arrived in Tunis to discuss the matter have been dismissed by Tunisian officials. They say they know nothing about it. [/restrict]