The Tunisian government issued a two-year suspended sentence to 20 militants convicted of attacking the U.S. Embassy in Tunisia on September 14th of last year.
According to the Associated Press, thousands of militants protested outside the U.S. Embassy in Tunisia last fall throwing stones and scaling the walls of the compound. The militants planted a black flag with the “Islamic profession of faith” stating “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.” Four militants died in the demonstration.
Multiple reports confirm that the Tunisian government convicted 20 demonstrators for crimes committed during the protest but suspended their light two-year sentence. The government also freed many of the militants. The U.S. Embassy in Tunisia said it was “deeply troubled” by the ruling of the court and still believes a “full investigation” needs to be completed.
This isn’t the first time the Tunisian government has released suspects of crimes against the United States. In January of this year, the Tunisian court released the one person of interest in custody suspected of being involved in the attack on the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi that resulted in the death of four Americans. The foreign court cited a “lack of evidence” as the reason for the release and the government claimed it was monitoring the individual after his release.
In January, the State Department stonewalled reporters from further information on the release of the Benghazi suspect. The Department claimed it had no contact with the foreign government over the issue and referred reporters to the FBI or the Tunisian government.
On Wednesday the State Department said they were “concerned” about the verdict of the Tunisian court and claimed it was not their “desired outcome.” However, Spokeswoman Jen Psaki did not make any indication that the Department has been in communication with the Tunisian government about the ruling.
Watch the State Department reaction and read the transcript below:
QUESTION: Just very quickly on Tunisia, and the government yesterday announced that it had given suspended sentences to 20 people who were accused of attacking the U.S. Embassy last fall. More than half of them were released. Wondering if this building has a reaction to that and whether the government believes that that was a pretty light sentence or a light consequence.
MS. PSAKI: We do, and let me just make sure I find all the information to give you the most thorough answer here. Let’s see.
Well, let me broadly say to you, Lara, while I look for any for additional guidance here, that we are concerned about the suspended sentences. We’ve long called for a more extensive investigation into this particular case and have not been satisfied to date with what we’ve seen.
QUESTION: Were you surprised by the suspended sentences, or is this something that was expected, given past actions?
MS. PSAKI: I have no information to believe knew in advance, if that’s what you’re asking. We, of course, it was not our preferred outcome here.