Dozens of Tunisian rights activists and journalists staged a small protest on Monday against a planned visit by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Tunisia is one of the few Arab states where demonstrations are allowed, following a 2011 uprising that toppled veteran ruler Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and ushered in freedom of speech and the press.
The Saudi crown prince is expected to arrive on Tuesday, part of a tour of several Arab countries on his first trip abroad since Khashoggi’s murder, which has strained Saudi Arabia’s ties with the West and battered his image abroad.
Some 13 Tunisian civic and rights groups, among them the journalists’ union, had called for a protest at the central Habib Bourguiba avenue in Tunis, scene of the mass protests that toppled Ben Ali in 2011.
They waved pamphlets demanding “Freedom for Saudi women” or which read “Bin Salman, you are murderer Number 1”.
“The Tunisian revolution… cannot agree to receive him (bin Salman) and allow him to clean himself (with his visit) of a murder,” Soukaina Abdessamad of the journalists’ union told reporters. “We will stage protests on Monday and Tuesday.”
Saudi Arabia has said the crown prince had no prior knowledge of the killing of the Washington Post columnist at Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul last month.
After offering numerous contradictory explanations, Riyadh said Khashoggi had been killed and his body dismembered when negotiations to persuade him to return to Saudi Arabia failed.
Since the 2011 uprising that ended the rule of Ben Ali and triggered the Arab Spring protests that convulsed the region, Tunisia has become one of the few Arab countries where protests are permitted.