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Tunisia: Belaid’s widow says government “stalling” revealing truth about assassination - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Flowers are laid at a memorial for slain opposition leader Chokri Belaid (portrait) set up at the site where he was murdered one year ago, on February 6, 2014 in Tunis. (AFP PHOTO/FETHI BELAID)

Flowers are laid at a memorial for slain opposition leader Chokri Belaid (portrait) set up at the site where he was murdered one year ago, on February 6, 2014 in Tunis. (AFP PHOTO/FETHI BELAID)

Tunis, Asharq Al-Awsat—As Tunisia marked the one-year anniversary of the assassination of opposition political leader Chokri Belaid on Wednesday, his widow told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the authorities have failed to reveal the truth about my husband’s assassination.”

Belaid’s widow, Basma Khalfaoui, is well known for her criticism of the Tunisian authorities, particularly the then-ruling Islamist Ennahda Party, following her husband’s assassination. She spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat following a deadly government raid which claimed the life of Ansar Al-Sharia member Kamel Ghadghadi, the man the Tunisian Interior Ministry says was responsible for the death of Belaid and, less than six months later, opposition figure Mohamed Brahmi. The two political assassinations plunged Tunisia into a protracted political crisis that ultimately ended in January with the formal resignation of the Ennahda-led troika government.

“The truth has yet to be revealed. What is clear is that one year after the assassination they [the authorities] are still stalling and colluding to conceal documents and evidence and hide the truth,” she said.

Speaking earlier this week, Tunisian Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou confirmed Ghadghadi’s death, saying it was “the best present we could give Tunisians” on the first anniversary of Belaid’s murder. However, Belaid’s family has also raised questions about claims that Ghadghadi and Ansar Al-Sharia were responsible for the assassination.

“He [Ben Jeddou] can keep this present; killing a man is not a present,” Belaid’s brother, Abdelmajid, told Agence France-Presse. “We didn’t want Ghadghadi to be killed and we are certainly not celebrating his death . . . We wanted him to be fairly tried. We want to know the whole truth. Ghadghadi was not alone. There are other parties implicated and we hope they will be captured so that the truth is revealed.”

“The government does not want us to reach the truth and know who issued the orders or who financed and facilitated and carried out the assassination. One year should be enough to uncover the truth,” Belaid’s widow told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Khalfaoui claimed that Belaid had contacted the Interior Minister just days before his death, requesting government protection. “He [Belaid] noticed that he was being followed, and feared that he was an assassination target, and the minister responded in a note saying that a field investigation had been conducted and that there was no proof of a threat to his life.”

Tunisia is marking the one-year anniversary of Chokri Belaid’s death just as the political situation in the country improved notably, with a new technocratic government in power and a new constitution having recently been adopted by the Constituent Assembly.

Khalfaoui praised the Tunisian opposition’s involvement in the country’s recent developments. She said: “This year, the opposition has played a vital role in maintaining the [political] balance and pushing Tunis towards democracy. The opposition did everything in its power [to achieve this], in terms of demonstrations and taking part in the national dialogue despite all the difficulties, unifying and agreeing to make concessions.”

As for whether she intends to follow in her late husband’s footsteps and get involved in politics, Khalfaoui told Asharq Al-Awsat: “No . . . I am concerned with the field of civil work and working with people. I am concerned with continuing the path led by Chokri Belaid towards a free and just Tunisia.”