Tunisian businessman Kamel Eltaief
Former crony of ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Tunisian businessman Kamel Eltaief, pictured here on December 3, says he is facing the heat of the nation's Islamist rulers who want to imprison him for political reasons. © Fethi Belaid - AFP/File
Tunisian businessman Kamel Eltaief
Kaouther Larbi, AFP
Last updated: December 10, 2012

Former Ben Ali crony faces heat of Tunisian Islamists

Kamel Eltaief, a Tunisian businessman and former crony of ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, says he is facing the heat of the nation's Islamist rulers who want to imprison him for political reasons.

"Officials of the (ruling) Islamist party Ennahda and their leftist allies want me in jail for political reasons," Eltaief, reputed to be an influential figure in Tunisian politics before and after last year's revolution that ousted Ben Ali, said in an interview with AFP.

Eltaief has been banned from travelling since November and is being investigated for "conspiracy against state security," based on alleged wiretaps and a complaint made by a lawyer.

Eltaief says he is in the crosshairs of the Islamists because of his links to the opposition.

Groups close to the country's new Islamist rulers have been clamouring for his prosecution.

Eltaief is being targeted by the League for the Protection of the Revolution, a group close to the ruling Islamist Ennahda party, which organised a massive rally on Saturday in Tunis to demand his trial.

Hichem Kanou, an official of the league, said Eltaief should be brought to justice as he is "the main symbol of corruption during the reign of Ben Ali."

But Eltaief accused the group of attacking his house in a Tunis suburb.

"I and my family are in danger and the government has the responsibility to ensure our security, especially given the smear campaigns in the media," he complained.

"They're after me because I'm trying to consolidate the opposition to create a large republican front," he added, touting himself as an "independent politician, a patriot."

Eltaief also described himself as the "victim of the first political trial to be held in Tunisia since the fall of Ben Ali," and said the travel ban has "no legal basis" and is a violation of human rights.

He denied claims that he has funded political parties, insisting that he conducted a "staunch struggle" against Ben Ali from "behind the scenes" to push for a transition to democracy after the revolution.

Eltaief was long considered the eminence grise behind Ben Ali, before falling out of grace in 1992 with the ex-president over a feud with the former dictator's wife Leila Trabelsi.

The businessman later built ties with the opposition and had good contacts with the interior ministry during the post-revolution interim government of ex-premier Beji Caid Essebsi who now heads the nationalist Nidaa Tounes party.

Eltaief boasted about his earlier links with Ben Ali.

"Before 1992, Ben Ali discussed each political appointment with me and he even called me on the day of his flight," says the man who is now friendly with Essebsi and Najib Chebbi, head of the Republican party.

After his break with Ben Ali, he was tried and given a one-year suspended jail sentence for "indecency."

Eltaief was also involved in the coup d'etat that forced statesman and former president Habib Bourguiba from power in 1987 on medical grounds.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Stay Connected
twitter icon Twitter 13,558 linkedin icon LinkedIn 463
facebook icon Facebook 87,173 google+ icon Google+ 272