TUNIS, Tunisia (AFP) — Tunisian authorities said Monday police are investigating an MP who in a Facebook post appeared to defend the beheading of a French teacher who had shown his pupils satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
Teacher Samuel Paty, who used the cartoons during a lesson on freedom of expression, was murdered in the street outside his school on Friday afternoon, sparking outrage and countrywide rallies supporting freedom of expression in France.
Tunisian MP Rached Khiari, an independent aligned with the Islamist movement Karama which is part of the North African country’s governing coalition, wrote on Facebook the next day:
“Insulting the prophet of God is the greatest of crimes and anyone who commits it, whether a state, a group or an individual, must accept the consequences.”
His comments sparked a heated social media debate in Tunisia.
Mohsen Dali, a Tunis prosecutor, told AFP that a court had charged “a team specialized in terrorism with looking into the content of the post,” although a full judicial enquiry has not yet been opened.
Khiari has said he is ready to give up his parliamentary immunity.
Tunisia’s Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi voiced his condolences in a Saturday phone call with his French counterpart Jean Castex, stressing that Tunisia rejects “all forms of extremism and terrorism” and defends the right to “freedom of expression and belief.”
Over the weekend, French police detailed the killer’s parents, grandfather and younger brother — part of a group of 15 people who remain in custody.
A judiciary source revealed Monday that four schoolchildren are among those being detained, held on suspicion of helping Paty’s assailant.
Paty was “pointed out” to his attacker “by one or more pupils, probably in return for payment,” the source said.
The father of one of Paty’s pupils who had launched an online campaign against the teacher was also taken into custody, as is a known Islamist radical. One of the detainees was previously convicted for terror-related crimes and admitted to having had contact with the man who killed Paty.
One other person was being held on suspicion of driving the killer, and another for allegedly accompanying him during the purchase of one of his weapons.
© Agence France-Presse