Tunisian activists are calling for protests over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi when Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) visits next week.
MBS began a tour of several Arab countries on Thursday with a visit to the United Arab Emirates, his first trip abroad since the murder of the Saudi critic, which has strained Riyadh’s ties with the West and battered his image abroad.
The crown prince has been accused of ordering the killing of the Washington Post columnist at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last month, but Saudi Arabia says he had no prior knowledge of it.
While Tunisia’s presidency said on Friday that MBS was welcome, activists have called for protests in front of the presidential palace in Carthage on Tuesday, the day of the crown prince’s arrival, and are trying to mount a legal challenge to stop the visit.
“The blood of Khashoggi has not dried yet, the murderer bin Salman is not welcome in Tunisia, the country of democratic transition,” Neji Bghouri, the president of the journalists’ syndicate, said.
Since the 2011 uprising that ended the rule of autocrat Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and triggered the Arab Spring protests that spread across the region, Tunisia has become one of the few Arab countries where protests are allowed.
A group of 50 lawyers has been tasked by journalists, bloggers and human right activists to lodge a complaint in the Tunisian courts to oppose the visit, lawyer Nizar Boujlel said.
After offering numerous contradictory explanations, Riyadh said last week Khashoggi had been killed and his body dismembered when negotiations to persuade him to return to Saudi Arabia failed.
Saudi King Salman asked his chosen heir to conduct the tour “based on his keenness to deepen the kingdom’s ties regionally and internationally,” Saudi Press Agency reported.
Nourredine Ben Ticha, an adviser to Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi, said: “Bin Salman will visit Tunisia on 27 November.
“He is welcome in Tunisia, like the rest of the Arab brothers. Saudi Arabia has an important role in the Arab region.”
Ben Ticha said Tunisia had asked for the truth about the killing and the punishment of those involved, but said the situation should not be exploited “to harm the stability of a brotherly country like Saudi Arabia”.
Before his trip to Tunisia, MBS is expected to visit Bahrain on Sunday, the state-run Bahrain News Agency reported on Saturday.
The Saudi crown prince will meet with Bahrain’s King Hamad, a Bahraini royal court statement read, and the pair will discuss the “deep-rooted fraternal and historic relations binding the two brotherly countries and peoples, in addition to (the) latest regional, Arab and international developments”.