Tunis frees youths who raised pro-Qatar banner at match
19 Jun 2017 - 21:17
By Adil al-Sabity / Anadolu Agency
TUNIS: Two Tunisian youths were released by authorities on Monday after being briefly detained for raising a banner at a football match in capital Tunis decrying attempts by several Arab states to isolate Qatar.
On Saturday evening, during the final match of the Tunisian Cup championship, the pair -- identified as Sabri Atwani and Hamza Aldbebi -- raised a large banner reading: “Shame on you rulers! You besiege Qatar while leaving Israel in peace.”
The banner’s appearance reportedly drew raucous applause from match spectators.
After being briefly detained and questioned by the Tunisian authorities on Sunday, the pair was released on Monday morning.
Shortly before their release, Slim Riahi, president of Tunisia’s Club Africain -- of which the two young men were fans -- called on authorities to free them immediately.
“The [Tunisian] revolution broke out [in 2011] because of thousands of young people like Sabri and Hamza,” Riahi said on his Facebook page.
Tunisians, he added, “cannot be detained for voicing opinions the authorities don’t like”.
On its own Facebook page, the Leaders Clubistes 2003 -- a Tunisian fan club that supports the Club Africain -- defended the two youths’ decision to raise the banner, describing it as “a call to revive the Arab obligation to fight the unjust Zionist entity [i.e., Israel]”.
On June 5, five Arab states -- Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Yemen -- abruptly cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism.
Mauritania followed suit the next day, while Jordan has downgraded its diplomatic representation in Doha.
Qatar, for its part, strenuously denies accusations that it supports terrorism, describing the moves to isolate it as “unjustified”.