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Viewing cable 09TUNIS372, TUNISIAN CRITICIZES REGIME IN FORTHCOMING BOOK;

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TUNIS372 2009-06-16 18:06 2010-12-13 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN Embassy Tunis
VZCZCXRO0893
PP RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHTU #0372/01 1671845
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 161845Z JUN 09 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY TUNIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6374
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNMGH/MAGHREB COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TUNIS 000372 
 
NOFORN 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR NEA/MAG (NARDI AND HAYES) 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/16/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KCOR SOCI PREL TS
SUBJECT: TUNISIAN CRITICIZES REGIME IN FORTHCOMING BOOK; 
SHARES ANECDOTE OF BEN ALI CORRUPTION 
 
REF: 07 TUNIS 1489 
 
TUNIS 00000372  001.2 OF 003 
 
 
Classified By: Ambassador Robert F. Godec for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
 
------- 
Summary 
------- 
 
1. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX approached Ambassador and Pol/EconCouns 
XXXXXXXXXXXX to share with us XXXXXXXXXXXX the Ambassador gave him assurances that we would. 
XXXXXXXXXXXX shared a rare first-hand account of 
corruption from several years ago in which Ben Ali himself 
was described as asking for a 50 percent stake in 
XXXXXXXXXXXX private university.  XXXXXXXXXXXX
 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
XXXXXXXXXXXX 
XXXXXXXXXXXX [BOOK TITLE REDACTED]
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
 
2. (C) On the margins of a networking event for aspiring and 
successful social entrepreneurs XXXXXXXXXXXX  The 
book is extremely critical of the Ben Ali regime for, among 
other things, the "duality" between official discourse and 
the reality on the ground.  Specifically XXXXXXXXXXXX points 
to the "stifling" of political liberties and "omnipotent" 
controls on the media.  He also charges that freedom of 
association is "illusory" and assesses that "the rule of law 
is more fiction than reality."  XXXXXXXXXXXX
 
------------------- 
XXXXXXXXXXXX 
------------------- 
 
3. XXXXXXXXXXXX asked that the US Embassy follow his case XXXXXXXXXXXX; 
the Ambassador assured him that we 
would do so.  Pol/EconCouns reviewed XXXXXXXXXXXX some of 
the accounts of life in prison that we have heard from 
released political prisoners; XXXXXXXXXXXX. 
 
---------------------- 
Tale of Corruption I: 
The French Connection? 
---------------------- 
 
4. (C/NF) Asked whether he had also been in touch with other 
western embassies, XXXXXXXXXXXX said that he had not.  He had 
avoided reaching out to the French, in particular, arguing 
that Ambassador Degallaix is seen as Ben Ali's Ambassador to 
French President Sarkozy, not vice versa.  In addition, 
XXXXXXXXXXXX alleged that the GOT has improperly given 
Ambassador Degallaix a villa, which is registered in his 
daughter's name, on rue Sidi Dhrif, near the President's own 
residence.  He did not offer any evidence of this alleged 
corruption or explain how this knowledge came to him. 
 
 
XXXXXXXXXXXX 
 
 
-------------------------------------------- 
Tale of Corruption II: 
Ben Ali Seeks 50 Percent Stake XXXXXXXXXXXX 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
5. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX likened corruption to a dangerous cancer 
that is spreading in Tunisia, spurred on by the corrupt 
practices of President Ben Ali and his extended family.  When 
Pol/EconCouns responded by noting that most tales of 
corruption that we hear concern "The Family" rather than the 
President himself, XXXXXXXXXXXX recounted an incident in which 
Ben Ali himself was involved.  XXXXXXXXXXXX Ben Ali came off as "very 
uneducated" in the meeting, failing to grasp some of the key 
points XXXXXXXXXXXX about the virtues XXXXXXXXXXXX Ben Ali abruptly told him that 
he wanted a 50-50 stake in the enterprise.  Fearful of 
responding in the negative, XXXXXXXXXXXX said he "played dumb," 
pretending not to understand the President's proposition. 
 
------------------------------- 
Other Run-ins with "The Family" 
------------------------------- 
 
6. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX also reviewed the difficulties that lead to 
the closure XXXXXXXXXXXX 
 
 
How Suha Arafat Got Into Trouble 
-------------------------------- 
 
7. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX also offered a theory as to what was behind 
the GOT's decision to revoke Suha Arafat's Tunisian 
citizenship in 2007.  (Note:  Reftel also reports on this 
incident.)  He said that he had heard that Leila Ben Ali at 
that time had been scheming to marry off an 18 year-old niece 
(NFI) to UAE Prime Minister and Dubai Ruler Sheik Mohamed bin 
Rashid al-Maktoum, one of whose wives is the half-sister of 
the King of Jordan.  According to this rumor, Suha Arafat 
warned Jordanian Queen Rania about Leila Ben Ali's plans. 
Word of Arafat's intervention got back to the Tunisian First 
Lady, who turned against Arafat and soon forced her out of 
Tunisia. 
 
--------------------- 
XXXXXXXXXXXX 
--------------------- 
 
8. XXXXXXXXXXXX
 
------- 
XXXXXXXXXXXX 
------- 
 
9. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX is extremely well respected and considered 
an upstanding member of the community.  While we might doubt 
the veracity of some of the rumors that he shared with us, we 
have no reason to doubt his account of his conversation with 
President Ben Ali, in which he described the President as 
seeking a 50 percent stake in his private university.  We 
routinely hear allegations of corruption, and such 
allegations are inherently difficult to prove.  
XXXXXXXXXXXX anecdote strikes us as credible.  It is also 
significant in that it implicates Ben Ali himself, while so 
many other reported incidents of corruption involve his 
extended family. 
 
10. XXXXXXXXXXXX 
 
Please visit Embassy Tunis' Classified Website at: 
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/tunis/index.c fm 
Godec