TUNISIA

Leaked video: 'The return of Ben Ali’s porno-politics'

 A video from 1991, which recently surfaced online, has sparked a huge controversy in Tunisia. It allegedly shows the current interior minister, who was in prison at the time, having sex with one of his fellow inmates. According to Tunisian activist Ahmed Manaï, the scandal harks back to the darkest hours of former ruler Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s “porno-politics”.  

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A video from 1991, which recently surfaced online, has sparked a huge controversy in Tunisia. It allegedly shows the current interior minister, who was in prison at the time, having sex with one of his fellow inmates. According to Tunisian activist Ahmed Manaï, the scandal harks back to the darkest hours of former ruler Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s “porno-politics”.

 

The video has been removed from YouTube, but can still be found on file-sharing sites. The black and white images, which seem to have been filmed by a surveillance camera in a prison cell, show two men having sex. Occasional close-ups of one of the men’s faces reveal that he vaguely resembles Ali Larayedh, the current interior minister and a member of Islamist party Ennahda. The poor quality of the images makes it impossible to determine the video’s authenticity, nor is it possible to establish whether Larayedh is actually in the video.

 

Samir Dilou, a spokesman for the Tunisian government, claims the video is a set-up. Its release has prompted a wave of solidarity among Tunisian politicians, who have unanimously condemned what they see as an attempt to destabilize the country.

 

Ali Larayedh was arrested by Ben Ali's police in 1990 and sentenced to 15 years in prison after a show trial. He was tortured in custody, and in 1992 his wife was sexually assaulted during questioning at the Ministry of the Interior.

 

In 1995, Ahmed Manaï, a long-standing opponent of the Ben Ali regime, published “Tunisian Torture: The Secret Garden of General Ben Ali”. The book details the pressure tactics used by the former president to silence his opponents.

 

I received a VHS copy of this video in 1991. It was sent to a lot of people during this period, in an attempt to discredit Ali Larayedh. I can’t say whether it is a set-up or not but videos like this were widely distributed by Ben Ali’s agents. I remember one video which allegedly showed the former Prime Minister Mohamed Mzali having sex with a woman in a Paris hotel room. Each time, the tape was sent anonymously to a certain number of people and the scandal was then revealed by one of the regime’s newspapers. However, the images were never shown to the public. This “porno-politics” tactic was used in the early 1990s, but it was later abandoned.

 

“The most likely explanation is that this video came from someone in the Ministry of the Interior or a former high-ranking police officer”

 

I thought that all this was behind us, but now it’s back. It’s disgusting, and the people doing this today are no better than those who did it under Ben Ali. I don’t know who released this video. The most likely explanation is that it came from someone in the Ministry of the Interior, or a former high-ranking police officer, who wants to undermine Ali Larayedh [Editor’s note: the video was posted shortly after it was announced that three arrest warrants had been issued for senior officials at the Ministry of the Interior]. It suggests that, despite the fact that Ben Ali is gone, parts of his government are still in power. I’ve heard that some of the ministry's archives have disappeared and that it’s possible that these documents are now in the hands of the wrong people. I expect there will be more scandals like this in the next few weeks.”