Tunisia frees United Nations expert suspected of espionage

May 22, 2019 GMT

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — A United Nations expert monitoring sanctions against Libya has left neighboring Tunisia after being jailed for nearly two months on suspicion of espionage.

The U.N. office in Tunis said Moncef Kartas was released Tuesday on a provisional basis pending further investigation and is doing “relatively well.” He is a Tunisian-German citizen and both the U.N. and Germany had expressed concern about his arrest. Both welcomed his release.

Germany’s U.N. Ambassador Christoph Heusgen told reporters at U.N. headquarters on Wednesday that Kartas has left Tunisia. He would not say where Kartas went.

Tunisian anti-terrorism officials have questioned Kartas’ use of a special phone to track air traffic, and said the case concerns his personal activities and not his work for the U.N. The officials said he entered Tunisia on his Tunisian passport, not his U.N. passport, and so is not entitled to diplomatic immunity. He was jailed upon his arrival March 24.

Tunis-based U.N. coordinator Diego Zorrilla told The Associated Press that Kartas’ activities were connected to his U.N. mandate. He said Kartas should be protected by diplomatic immunity even though he has Tunisian citizenship, and that the U.N. wants his seized computer and telephone returned.


Kartas’ lawyers say there’s no proof of wrongdoing.


Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed.