Tunis — A fiery interview with Tunisian salafist preacher Abou Iyadh is sparking an uproar.
A Tunisian judge this week barred a private radio station from broadcasting an interview with the leader of radical salafist group Ansar al-Sharia, saying he made the decision to protect the country from more acts of terrorism.
The Mosaique FM interview with Abou Iyadh (real name Saif Allah bin Hussein) "might contain coded messages capable of influencing the investigation and disturbing public order", Judge Jalel Eddine Boukhtif said on Monday (February 4th).
Abou Iyadh, the alleged organiser of the US embassy attack, is wanted on several terrorism-related charges, including "voluntary homicide with premeditation".
Despite the judge's order, the radio interview with Abou Iyadh was leaked on the Internet, AFP reported.
"We make a distinction between the government and Ennahda. The government does not represent Islam, but we are working with Ennahda movement, as an Islamic current independent of the government," Abou Iyadh said.
"Our enemies want a conflict between Islam and Islam," he continued, "but there is no reason to call for jihad in Tunisia, and that is why dozens of young people go to Syria and elsewhere...Presently, we are focused on social work," Abou Iyadh called for a conference of all Islamic movements in Tunisia.
Abou Iyadh had publicly embraced the ideology of al-Qaeda and pledged his loyalty to Osama bin Laden. He fought against US forces in Afghanistan with al-Qaeda. In 2003, he was arrested in Turkey and extradited to Tunisia, where he was sentenced for up to 68 years under the law of combating terrorism.
After Abou Iyadh was released from prison last March under the general legislative amnesty, he founded Ansar al-Sharia.
He has been wanted by Tunisian police since September.
A number of Tunisians praised the judge's decision to muzzle the jihadist.
"I do not know what this radical fellow wants after the acts he committed and the calamities he caused us along with his radical supporters," taxi driver Mahmoud Ben Sassi told Magharebia.
"Doesn't he know that we reject him and reject his ideas and we do not want to listen to them? It seems that he wants to drag Tunisia toward a bloody war," he added.