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Middle East

Tunisia: Reported consulate suspect arrested

TUNIS, Tunisia: A Tunisian man who was arrested in Turkey earlier this month with reported links to the attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya has been returned to Tunisia and is facing terrorism charges, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Ali Harzi was repatriated to Tunisia on Oct. 11 by authorities in Turkey, and a judge issued his arrest warrant, lawyer Ouled Ali Anwar told The Associated Press. He said his client was told by a judge Tuesday that he has been charged with "membership of a terrorist organization in a time of peace in another country."

A person who saw Harzi's court dossier told The Associated Press that prosecutors are linking him to the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that left Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead.

He said Harzi is one of two Tunisians arrested Oct. 3 in Turkey when they tried to enter the country with false passports. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information. Harzi's alleged role in the attacks is not clear.

Anwar denied there was any evidence that Ali "is implicated in the Benghazi attacks." He added his client was not using a fake passport, saying he was used as a "scapegoat to satisfy the Americans."

Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the U.S. has been looking into the arrests of two Tunisian men being detained in Turkey reportedly in connection with attacks on the consulate in Libya last month. The State Department in Washington had no further comment on Wednesday.

Tunisian Interior Ministry spokesman Tarrouch Khaled confirmed that Harzi was in custody in Tunis. Khaled told The Associated Press "his case is in the hands of justice," but he would not elaborate further on the case.

The charge against Harzi is punishable by six to 12 years in prison, according to the provisions of the anti-terrorist law in force in Tunisia since 2003.

 
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