The quest to bring the attackers of the Benghazi diplomatic mission to justice suffered a setback yesterday when a suspect held in connection with the deadly violence was released.
The Tunisian government set Ali Harzi free without conditions except to remain in the Tunis area in case he was needed again. The release came after his lawyers filed a Jan. 4 petition to the investigative judge.
Authorities cited a lack of evidence in releasing Harzi, 26, who was charged with membership in a terrorist organization. He was arrested in October and questioned by the FBI in December after Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) threatened the Tunisian government with an aid cutoff if U.S. officials weren’t allowed access to the suspect.
The Obama administration has been tight-lipped about Harzi, one of the few arrests made in the attack that killed four Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
“The president’s made clear, the secretary’s made clear that we are intent on figuring out who did this and bringing the perpetrators to justice. But I’m not going to get into the details of who and how,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in late October.
Harzi’s father, Tahar, recently said in a TV interview that his son was just doing construction work in Libya, but that he’d encouraged his boys to take up “jihad in the cause of God.”
Ansar al Sharia in Tunisia, the al-Qaeda-linked militant group believed to be behind the Benghazi attack, released video showing its members hugging the freed Harzi, whom they called “brother.” A few weeks ago, in a disturbing stalking threat, its media arm released photos purportedly of the FBI agents who interviewed Harzi.