Hundreds of protestors have gathered outside the Tunisian Parliament to demand that the government prevent jihadists who have fought overseas from returning to the country.
According to organisers, 1,500 people attended the event, waving placards reading “Daesh’s [Islamic State’s] place is in jail, not among citizens”, and chanting “no freedom for terrorist groups”, the Daily Mail has reported.
The protest took place on the same day that three Tunisians were arrested in connection with the truck attack which claimed 12 lives in Berlin a week before Christmas. One of the men was the nephew of Anis Amri, the failed asylum seeker who is believed to have carried out the attack.
Protestors slammed Rached Ghannouchi, head of the Islamist Ennahda party, who has repeatedly called for jihadists to be allowed to “repent” and return to Tunisian society if they renounce violence.
But such has been the level of public outcry over the matter that the Tunisian President, Beji Caid Essebsi, was forced to publicly confirm earlier this month that Tunisia will not pardon those who travel abroad to fight for terrorist factions.
“’Many of them want to return, and we can’t prevent a Tunisian from returning to his country,” he said. “But we will be vigilant.”
He added: “we will not be indulgent with the terrorists”.
Some 5,000 Tunisians are currently fighting abroad with Islamic State and other Islamic terror groups, mainly in Iraq, Syria and Libya. On Friday, the interior minister, Hedi Majdoub, told parliament that 800 of those fighters are known to have returned to the country.
The hard line against returning jihadists in the majority-Islamic country is in marked contrast to that taken in Europe, where governments have been more lenient to returning jihadists.
In October, several Swedish municipalities revealed plans to offer returning jihadis with Swedish passports taxpayer-funded driving lessons, housing, and even debt cancellation in an attempt to “re-integrate” the fighters.
Municipal coordinator against extremism Anna Sjöstrand said: “There may be criticism, but [I think] that you should get the same help as others who seek help from us. We cannot say that because you made a wrong choice, you have no right to come back and live in our society,” Sjöstrand told Sveriges Radio.
Meanwhile in the UK, figures released in May revealed that just one in eight of the 400 or so jihadists who have returned to British shores have been caught and convicted by the British authorities.
Prof Anthony Glees, head of the University of Buckingham’s Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies, said: “The hundreds of British citizens who have gone to Syria are highly dangerous.
“We need to know why so many haven’t been prosecuted. It suggests to me that they have have simply gone off the radar while our security services try to play catch-up.”