TUNIS, Tunisia – A Tunisian man who was arrested in Turkey this month with reported links to the attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya is facing terrorism charges, his lawyer said Wednesday, as an Egyptian official said a militant suspected of involvement was killed in clashes in Cairo.
Ali Harzi was repatriated to Tunisia on Oct. 11 by authorities in Turkey, and a judge issued his arrest warrant, lawyer Ouled Ali Anwar told The Associated Press. He said his client was told by a judge Tuesday that he has been charged with “membership of a terrorist organization in a time of peace in another country.”
A person who saw Harzi’s court dossier told The Associated Press that the file links him to the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that left Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead.
He said Harzi is one of two Tunisians reportedly arrested Oct. 3 in Turkey when they tried to enter the country with false passports. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information. Harzi’s alleged role in the attack is not clear.
Anwar denied there was any evidence that Ali was implicated in the attacks. He added his client was not using a fake passport, saying he was a “scapegoat to satisfy the Americans.”
The charge against Harzi is punishable by six to 12 years in prison, according to the provisions of the anti-terrorist law in force in Tunisia since 2003.
Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the U.S. has been looking into the arrests of two Tunisian men being detained in Turkey reportedly in connection with the attacks.
The State Department in Washington had no further comment Wednesday.
A U.S. intelligence official was cautious about the Tunisian arrest, saying that the Tunisians have so far not allowed American officials to interview the suspect, so the U.S. is not yet certain how directly he is connected to the attack.
The suspect has ties to both Ansar al-Shariah and Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, as do most like-minded militants in the region, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.
Tunisian Interior Ministry spokesman Tarrouch Khaled confirmed that Harzi was in custody in Tunis. Khaled said “his case is in the hands of justice,” but he would not elaborate further.
In Egypt, a security official said a local militant suspected of involvement in the attack was killed in clashes in Cairo when he attacked approaching Egyptian forces.
The official said the man, known only by his first name, Hazem, recently returned from Libya and kept weapons in his hideout. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters, said an investigation into the man’s possible involvement in the consulate attack is under way.
This is the first time an Egyptian has been declared a suspect in the attack.