A Tunisian man who was arrested in Turkey earlier this month with reported links to the attack on a US 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.”
Also Wednesday, a man suspected of involvement in the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens died after a gunfight with authorities in Cairo, Egypt Independent reported.
According to the report, Egyptian authorities had information implicating him in “involvement in the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, and the death of the US ambassador there.” The report was based on an announcement made by the Egyptian Interior Ministry.
Egyptian security forces reportedly engaged the suspect in a five-hour firefight. During the stand-off, the apartment the suspect was holed up in caught fire. After the fire was extinguished, the suspect’s body was found in the burned-out apartment. The suspect had reportedly rented the apartment for the past three months, and rocket-propelled grenades, automatic weapons, and a trove of bombs and ammunition were found, the report said.
A person who saw Harzi’s court dossier told The Associated Press that prosecutors are linking him to the Sept. 11 attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi that left Ambassador Chris 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 US 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.
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.
On October 4,Turkish media reported that two Tunisians had been arrested in Turkey in connection with the September killing of Ambassador Stevens in the Benghazi attack.
Obama administration officials originally said the attacks were tied to anti-US protests over an anti-Islam film, but later said the consulate was the target of a planned terror attack.
According to the October report, the two suspects were arrested on Tuesday night, October 3, at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport and were carrying forged passports.
The suspects were then said to be in custody in Turkey.
The Times of Israel contacted the State Department for comment on October 4, as well as on the Wednesday of this report, but received no response.