UN arms expert imprisoned in Tunisia on 'fabricated' charges

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UN arms expert imprisoned in Tunisia on ‘fabricated’ charges

Deutsche Welle

UN arms expert imprisoned in Tunisia on fabricated charges
UN arms expert imprisoned in Tunisia on ‘fabricated’ charges. AFP/privat
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After Moncef Kartas, a well-respected expert on illegal arms shipments into Libya, had cleared security at the international airport in Tunisia in late March, several plainclothes security officers were waiting for him in the arrivals hall, according to his defense team.

Few people knew of Kartas’ travel plans, which had changed last-minute. But the officers “were clearly expecting him,” Kartas’ lawyer, Sarah Zaafrani, who is also his cousin, told DW.

Ever since, he has been imprisoned on charges of obtaining national defense secrets and passing them on to an unnamed “foreign state or its agents,” according to the English translation of the official decision to open an investigation that DW has obtained.

Espionage is a charge that can carry the death penalty in Tunisia, although it has not been enforced for several years.

The arms expert also stands accused of “willfully disclosing information gathered through interference, interception and audio surveillance.”

UN: Arrest a clear rights violation

Kartas’ arrest came as a complete surprise to Zaafrani and many of his friends and colleagues with whom DW spoke. A dual German-Tunisian national, Kartas is a member of a United Nations panel of experts tasked with investigating possible arms shipments to and from Libya. The reported shipments occurred in violation of an embargo imposed in 2011 as the country descended into the violence that eventually led to the overthrow of longtime dictator Muammar Gadhafi. As such, he enjoys diplomatic immunity from arrest.

Read more: The road from revolution to civil war in Libya

While states can ask the Security Council to lift immunity, Tunisia chose not to do so in this case.

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