Belhassen Trabelsi — a criminal, not a refugee

THE RIVALRY BETWEEN Alberta’s Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties at several points alluded to another contest, of Canada and Saudi Arabia in the designation of the world’s premier crude-yielding nation. There’s however another contest underway, crude in a differing sense, and concerning the harbouring of Tunisia’s former oppressors and exploiters.

For well over a year, Tunis’ Ben Ali faction has been luxuriously accomodated by the very bosom which once consoled Idi Amin. At the same time, Belhassen Trabelsi has been evading justice in Montreal. A distinction must be made however between the former and latter case. Trabelsi’s extended stay in Canada is a by-product of due process, as his petition for refugee status makes its way through the system. This arrangement, although irksome, is much to be preferred over its Saudi counterpart, grounded in an unapologetic tradition of harbouring career psychopaths. (This charitable tradition of taking in displaced African dictators obtained for decades in France also, only giving way with the arrival of the awful Nesrine Ben Ali and her servants to the appopriately awful destination of Disneyland Paris.)

It’s a pity that only a few dozen ex-patriated Tunisians are in Montreal to testify to the crimes of Trabelsi and his base relations. If you find the state-subsidized regal affectations of Minister Oda offensive, imagine living in an impoverished Mafia state whose thuggish presidential in-laws extort one-third of the nation’s economy, while the first lady regularly indulges herself with multi-thousand-dollar shopping sprees, fleeing the country in possession of literally tons of Tunisian gold when the Enough is Enough moment arrives.

The moment in question was of course the Arab Spring, initiated on January 4, 2011, the day that Tunisian merchant Mohamed Bouazizi died from the wounds of his self-immolation. Bullied and humiliated beyond toleration, this hard-working and decent young man reflected back to Tunisians — and many others beside, throughout the Mahgreb and Middle East — the indignities of their treatment by complacent and overfed despots. Bouazizi’s desperate defiance was not only of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his state collaborators, but of the Trabelsis. For a year now, one of the principal Tunisian offenders has been living comfortably in Quebec, reposing in the hope of Canada’s good grace.

By all means, let him dwell for a time in this manner as he awaits the outcome of his Immigration and Refugee Board appeal. The upholding of due process is in itself a repudiation of everything that the former Tunisian regime represented. Under Ben Ali and his clan, elections became meaningless. Opposition to, and criticism of, the ruling family was commonly met by intimidation, prison, and torture. How appropriate then that Belhassen Trabelsi should feel the pinch of a transparent, legal, and just process which considers the full range of his crimes and the illegitimacy of his cause, and therafter proceeds accordingly.

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