Tunisian media is reporting that Tunisia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Rafik Abdessalem, the son-in-law of Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood leader Rachid Ghannouchi, is suspected of misusing public money and having an extramarital affair. According to a Tunisia Live report:
Tunisia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Rafik Abdessalem has been caught in the middle of a controversy in which he is suspected of misusing public money and having an extramarital affair. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Abdessalem himself have roundly denied such accusations in public statements. The ongoing controversy started on December 26 when Tunisian journalist and blogger Olfa Riahi posted on her blog a series of receipts showing that the minister had spent several nights at the upscale Sheraton hotel, which is located near the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The initials of a woman was also included in the receipts, which led to speculation over the nature of her relationship with the minister. In an interview with Tunisian radio Mosaique FM, Abdessalem admitted to the veracity of the hotel receipts made known by Riahi but asserted that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not pay “one dime more” than the amount that concerned the scope of his work. The ministry stood by its minister and released a communiqué on Saturday, December 29, in which it stated that the payment for Abdessalem’s stay at the Sheraton complied with all standard accounting procedures set by the ministry. “This is customary when I stay over to work in the early morning or late at night,” said the minister in the interview. “Sometimes, I finish work at 11 p.m. or midnight, so I’m obliged every once in a while to stay at the Sheraton hotel for a few days.” In another interview on state television, Abdessalem justified his multiple stays at the Sheraton on the grounds that he does not own a house in the capital near his office. The minister also confirmed the existence of the woman included in the billing information provided by Riahi. He specified in the interview with Mosaique FM that she was “a family cousin” and that no public money was spent for her stay at the Sheraton. “The rumor spread about a mistress… is laughable,” he said in the same radio interview.
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According to a 2001 Tunisia Live profile of Rafik Abdessalem, he is a member of the Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood, otherwise known as Ennahda, with a long background in the movement:
Rafik Abdessalem, 43, is a member of the moderate Islamic party, Ennahda, and the party leader Rached Gannouchi’s son-in-law. He is currently the Minister of Foreign Affairs within Hamadi Jebali’s coalition government . He has been working as Senior Researcher and Head of the Research and Studies Office at the Al Jazeera Center for Studies. Abdessalem holds a BA in Philosophy from the Faculty of Arts of Mohammed V in Rabat, Morocco, as well as a PhD in Politics and International Relations from the University of Westminster in Great Britain. During the late eighties, he was one of the prominent figures within the student community at the University of Tunisia. He was a member of the Executive Office of the Tunisian Students General Union between 1987 and 1990. At the time, Tunisia was still under Zine el Abidine Ben Ali’s rule, and the regime and security forces were ruthless against members of Ennahda and other islamist formations, forcing many to flee the country. Abdessalem thus moved to Morocco in 1990, before settling in England where he completed his graduate course. He held different positions within Ennahda: he was one of the leaders of the party’s exiled bureau, a member of the Political Bureau, a member of the Executive Bureau in charge of media between 2001 and 2007, and a member of the Shura council until Ennahda moved back to Tunisia. While in London, he founded the Maghreb Center for Research and Translation, and chaired the London Platform for Dialogue, which involved a group of politicians and intellectuals living in the UK.
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A post from November 2011 reviewed the evidence linking the Ennahda (aka Nahda) Party to the Global Muslim Brotherhood. Ennahda is headed by Rachid Ghannouchi (many spelling variations) who can best be described as an independent Islamist power center who is tied to the global Muslim Brotherhood though his membership in the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) and his important position in the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), both organizations led by Global Muslim Brotherhood Youssef Qaradawi. An Egyptian news report has identified Ghannouchi as a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood “abroad.” Ghannouchi is also one of the founding members of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), a Saudi organization closely linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and dedicated to the propagation of “Wahabist” Islam throughout the world. Ghannouchi is known for his thinking on the issue of Islam and citizenship rights. Earlier posts reported on the return of Mr. Ghannouchi to Tunisia following his long exile in the UK. Other posts have detailed his extremist background.