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UAE operatives 'infiltrating Tunisian politics', claims website

Arabic-language website Arab Secrets claims documents prove UAE has set up clandestine operation to bribe officials and influence politics
A Tunisian man draped in the national flag reads graffiti written in French: 'Stay standing, Tunisians (AFP)

A shadowy Arabic-language website called Arab Secrets has published confidential documents it claims shows a clandestine UAE network operating in Tunisia which bribes officials and seeks influence in political, social and parliamentary affairs.

According to the report on Asrar Arabiya, the UAE paid millions of dollars to Nidaa Tounes only two months before 2014 presidential elections, which ended up with Beji Caid Essebsi, the leader of Nidaa Tounes, being declared as president.

Middle East Eye cannot verify the validity of the claims. 

The documents identify "Saeed Salem al-Hafry" as the Emirati ringleader. His orders come from Hamad al-Shamsi, allegedly an intelligence officer, in Abu Dhabi, Arab Secrets says. Eight others are involved in the network, according to the website.

The documents reportedly expose a plan to thwart the politically Islamist Ennahda movement, which is affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, in the next municipal elections due to be held on 6 May.

Infringing the Tunisian parliament

The website says a letter sent by Hafry to Shamsi, classified '(881/2016)' and dated 19 October 2016, states: "The UAE has set up a plan to recruit agents and bribe representatives within the parliament in order to pass the agendas of the UAE through these members."

The document, titled 'A pro-UAE parliamentary wing in Tunisia', reveals a meeting between a UAE state security officer and a Nidaa Tounes MP on the parliamentary planning and finance committee. 

In his letter, the officer quoted the MP, whose name MEE has not used, as saying: "I consider myself one of the men of the UAE because of its open economic perspective and approach, which makes it a model to be followed in the Arab and international countries."

MEE cannot independently verify if this meeting took place.

According to the document, "the UAE-backed parliamentary wing in Tunisia" aims to "reduce the spread of the Islamists affiliated to Ennahda both at the level of the state and its popular base”. 

The document reveals that the UAE's "parliamentary wing" should consist of 130 deputies. "The composition of this parliamentary wing is easy, but it requires the financial assistance of the UAE through, for instance, paying a $3,000 monthly fee for each deputy who joins the wing," Arab Secrets claimed.

A Tunisian journalist reveals

The Arab Secrets' claims come after Soufiane Ben Farhat, a Tunisian journalist, claimed on the local Nessma television channel that President Essebsi informed him that "the UAE requested the same Egyptian scenario in Tunisia. However, he declined their request."

Ben Farhat said that Essebsi also revealed to him that the UAE requires its agenda to be followed in order for it to provide financial assistance.

However, "the political cost of implementing the UAE agenda will be very high", Ben Farhat said, alllegedly quoting Essebsi. 

Ben Farhat quoted Essebsi as saying: "The UAE has demands which cannot be implemented." 

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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