Just when you thought relations between Algeria and France couldn’t get any better, a bombshell is dropped shattering the ephemeral moment of cordial relations between Algiers and Paris. Tunisia worries also that its own relations with Algeria will be threatened over the case of an activist fleeing the country
Algeria recalled its ambassador to Paris on Wednesday, accusing France of orchestrating the “exfiltration” of a French-Algerian activist it wants to arrest, triggering a new crisis between the countries after months of increasingly warm relations.
Amira Bouraoui, a rights activist and reporter detained during the 2019 pro-democracy protests in Algeria and freed from prison in 2020, had allegedly crossed into Tunisia illegally after evading Algerian judicial surveillance, according to Algerian and French media.
She was arrested in Tunisia this week and faced an extradition hearing over her illegal entry into the country, but a judge subsequently ordered her to be freed and she was allowed to leave Tunis aboard a Transavia flight on Monday.
French media have reported that her release and flight to France resulted from French diplomatic pressures on Tunisia.
On Tuesday Tunisian President Kais Saied dismissed Foreign Minister Othman Jerandi without giving a reason. As new reports about the Bouraoui case circulated, Tunis was rife with speculation that Jerandi’s dismissal was linked to how the affair was managed by Tunisian officials.
France’s foreign ministry declined to comment. A spokesman for Tunisia’s government was not immediately available for comment.
In its official diplomatic note to the French authorities, Algiers denounced ” the violation of national sovereignty by diplomatic, consular and security personnel under the authority of the French state”.
French officials “took part in a clandestine and illegal operation of exfiltration of an Algerian national whose physical presence on the national territory is demanded by the Algerian justice”, according to the note.
Algeria rejected the “inadmissible and unspeakable” development which causes “great damage” to Algerian-French relations, according to the note.
On the morning of February 8th, the pro-government newspaper El Moudjahid denounced, in an editorial, the “very unfriendly” move by Paris towards Algeria and Tunisia.
French President Emmanuel Macron visited Algeria last year, warmly embracing President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on a trip that seemed to turn a page on years of difficult ties.
Algeria’s powerful military chief Said Chengriha recently spent three days in Paris to discuss military issues including the Sahel and met Macron. Tebboune was due to visit Paris later this year.
Although no details were given by Tunisian authorities about the circumstances of Bouraoui’s entry and departure from the country, some analysts say the still murky case could affect Tunisia’s relations with Algeria and might lead to the dismissal of Tunisian officials.
Tunisian news website Univers News wrote that, “Amira Bouraoui’s entry to Tunisia is surrounded by many question marks and ambiguities, but her departure followed strong pressures from France towards Tunisia and led to the French-Algerian being handed over to the French embassy in Tunis instead of her extradition in response to the Algerian request”.
The news website added, “Many links in the chain of events are still missing” but “what is certain is that the Algerian authorities will not overcome this episode easily. Fallouts are likely to affect the situation of the Tunisian government and the relationship of cabinet members with the president and that of Tunisia with Algeria”.