Fugitive ex-figure row hits Turkey, Tunisia relations

Fugitive ex-figure row hits Turkey, Tunisia relations

Fugitive ex-figure row hits Turkey, Tunisia relations

Former senior figure of the ousted Tunisian regime Agrebi (2nd from R) attends a panel that sees the participation of PM Erdoğan (L) and his wife.

A senior figure from Tunisia’s former regime that participated in a conference in Ankara despite being wanted by Tunis has returned to France, diplomatic sources said Jan. 4 in an attempt to soothe North African country’s anger that Turkey did not arrest the official.

Tunisian authorities had asked Turkey to arrest and extradite Saida Agrebi under an international arrest warrant after her presence at the International Family and Social Policies Summit on Jan. 2-3 in her capacity as vice president of the World Family Organization.

“At first, another name was conveyed to us as the participant on behalf of the institution. Only a day before the meeting, this name was changed to Agrebi,” a diplomatic source said.

Agrebi was a key figure in the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who fled Tunisia for Saudi Arabia on Jan. 14, 2011, and a close aide of his wife, Leila Trabelsi, according to Agence France-Presse. The U.S.-educated Agrebi fled Tunisia for Europe on July 30 that year.

The Tunisian Foreign Ministry had asked, through Tunisian Ambassador to Ankara Mehrez Ben Rhouma, for the arrest and extradition of Agrebi on the basis of a summons sent by Interpol Tunis to Interpol Ankara on Jan. 2. However, Agrebi’s name was not on the red notice list.

When reminded that Tunisian media published photographs of Agrebi being presented with an award at the meeting, the same sources said no award was granted to her but that she was given a document of gratitude which was presented to each participant.

Asked about the international arrest warrant for Agrebi, diplomatic sources only said she traveled from France to Turkey before returning, in an apparent bid to highlight France’s responsibility over the matter. Tunisian media published photographs of her being presented with an award and with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the sidelines of the gathering.

On her Facebook page, Agrebi scoffed at the Tunisian authorities, saying: “Recognized by the whole world! Excluded from her own country!”