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Former US Officials, Academics Call on US to Suspend Assistance to Tunisian Government

‘The US should impose Magnitsky sanctions on President Kais Saied and his enablers,’ they say in letter to Biden

A group of US scholars, former US diplomats and rights activists sent an open letter to President Joe Biden, calling on him to suspend all American assistance to the Tunisian government over President Kais Saied’s power grab and his crackdown against dissidents. 

“The U.S. should immediately suspend all U.S. assistance to the Tunisian government, as it is legally bound to do after both military coups or civilian coups in which the military plays a decisive role,” they wrote in a letter Wednesday.

“This has happened in Tunisia when the army shuttered the democratically-elected parliament. The U.S. should impose Magnitsky sanctions on Saied and his enablers, including the ministers of interior, defense and justice and not provide any funds, training or equipment to these ministries while they persecute journalists, activists and dissidents,” it added.

The letter said the US “should not reward such behavior with aid, loans, praise and photo-ops.”

“Lending our taxpayer dollars and legitimacy to Saied will only encourage other populist leaders to believe that they too can get away with dismantling democratic institutions,” it said. “If the U.S. is truly serious about shoring up democracies worldwide, it must send a signal that there are real costs to democratic backsliding.”

Among those who signed the letter were former US ambassador to Tunisia Jake Walles, former US ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, ex-deputy national security advisor Elliot Abrams and political scientist Francis Fukuyama.

The letter came after a Tunisian judge on April 20 ordered opposition leader Rached Ghannouchi to be detained before his trial on charges of plotting against state security.

Tunisia has been in a deep political crisis since July 2021, when Saied ousted the government and dissolved parliament in a move decried by opponents as a “coup.”

Tunisian authorities have launched a widespread arrest campaign against critics of Saied in recent weeks on accusations of being part of a conspiracy against state security.

Source : AA