Tunisia releases suspected bin Laden bodyguard


Tunisia released a man two weeks after he was deported from Germany on suspicion of being an Islamist militant who once served as Osama bin Laden’s bodyguard, a judiciary official said.

Tunis authorities decided there was insufficient evidence to keep Sami Aidoudi, but investigations would continue, said Sofian Sliti, spokesman forTunisia’s anti-terrorist judiciary body.

German opposition and rights groups criticised the deporting decision, saying he could face torture in his home country and citing a court decision he should stay.

Aidoudi – referred to only as Sami A. in Germany – applied unsuccessfully for asylum in 2006. German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who has taken a tough line on immigration, accused him in May of having been bin Laden’s bodyguard and said he should be deported.

Aidoudi denied the allegations but was arrested in June and deported a month later on July 13.

Germany’s interior ministry later denied opposition accusations it had pressured authorities in North Rhine-Westphalia to accelerate the deportation.

German conservative lawmaker Armin Schuster said Tunisia’s decision to release the suspect proved Germany was right to extradite him.
“If the Tunisian authorities have released him that breaks up the argument he could face torture there,” he told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper.

Germany should block Sami A. from re-entering the country if he tried to do so, he added.

Tunisia won praise for its transition since authoritarian leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was ousted in 2011. It agreed on a constitution guaranteeing fundamental rights, held elections and largely avoided political turmoil.

Human rights groups on occasion accused members of security agencies of abuses against Islamist suspects – accusations denied by authorities.