In response to "backtracking on civil liberties and online censorship", Anonymous supporters in Tunisia have hacked and published embarrassing emails belonging to Ennahda, the leading political party in the new Tunisian government. More revelations are expected.
Since the beginning of April, thousands of emails sent and received by leading figures in the Ennahda party, currently in power in Tunisia, have been hacked and distributed by Anonymous. On Monday, a new round of leaks contained documents that could prove embarrassing for Ennahda. The emails come from the Tunisian Minister of Agriculture, Mohamed Ben Salem.
They include minutes (pdf, in Arabic) of a meeting of Ennahda’s executive board dated March 19. The document indicates that board members discussed the idea of a destabilisation operation to be carried out against international institutions involved in the financial support of Tunisia – the IMF, the EU and the ECB – before ultimately rejecting the idea.
At the same meeting members also discussed ways to integrate elements of sharia law into Tunisian law. While the party publicly assert the values of Muslim culture, they have denied that they aim to introduce sharia law.
So far 3,500 documents, belonging to figures including the Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, have been posted online on servers belonging to supporters of Anonymous. Within the hacked emails, there is also mention of possible election fraud, censorship and financial transactions.
Ennahda, the majority party in the Tunisian constituent assembly, and their government partners adamantly dispute the veracity of some of the documents. Anonymous continue to vouch for their authenticity, and promise further revelations from the past two years.
In October 2011, nine months after the departure of former president Ben Ali – now enjoying his dictator’s retirement in a Saudi Arabian palace – the first free elections took place in Tunisia. Tunisians elected a constituent assembly that is now tasked with drafting the country’s new constitution. The moderate Islamist Ennahda party were the big winners of the poll, capturing 89 seats in the 217-seat assembly.
However, an email hacked from the inbox of the Prime Minister, Hamadi Jebali, mentions the possible existence of election fraud. According to the document, Tunisians living abroad may have been able to vote twice in the October poll – once in their country of residence, and then potentially a second time in Tunisia itself.
A report of the agency supervising the election had even suggested voiding votes from the Brussels North office, as a result of irregularities.
A second document also challenges the rules of the election. According to a table of statistics, the number of seats delegated to each region would not be calculated by the number of people living there, but by its total surface area.
If the documents prove to be genuine, they may throw into question the legitimacy of the leading political force in the country. According to one Anonymous Tunisia supporter who spoke with OWNI, this is particularly true, given that the new government does not seem to want to share power.
We attacked Hamadi Jebali because he is the symbol of a government which has backtracked on civil liberties, not because he is part of Ennahda. The government is responsible for acts of aggression committed against unemployed demonstrators and the launch of a security cell for censoring and controlling the Internet. Being elected by the people is not a reason to attack our freedoms.
Moreover, amongst the published mails is a document attesting to the exclusive power desired by leaders of the party. It mentions the possibility of suppressing the use of the term “transitional” on national television when describing the new government.
Until late March, Ennahda had officially been considering incorporating Islamic law into the country’s new constitution. Internally, the party discussed the need to ensure the non-independence of the Central Bank of Tunisia, and lamented in another document “French and European pressure to speed up the democratic process“.
The political line adopted by the transitional government is not the only issue addressed in the emails. This email sent to the inbox of the Ennahda party contained the banking details of Kamal Ben Amara, an Ennahda representative elected to the constituent assembly, and an account holder at the Qatar International Islamic Bank. Before entering politics Ben Amara had worked at Qatar Petroleum, the national oil company of Qatar, as shown in this old group directory. In the current government Ben Amara was appointed Vice-President of the Tunisian Energy Commission.
As such, he is one of the members of government with the authority to negotiate, among other things, investments in the La Skhira refinery, the largest in Tunisia, with an estimated production rate of 120,000 barrels per day. The cost of the construction of the refinery was € 1.4 billion. The tender was won by Qatar Petroleum, who will part-operate it for the next two decades.
In addition, amongst the bank account details emailed to Ennahda is a “swift code”, used for international money transfers. It’s unknown in which direction the wire transfers were traveling. From Kamal Ben Amara to Ennahda, or from the party to Ben Amara, potentially for the purposes of his election campaign.
Faced with the many questions posed by the documents, regarding both their content and authenticity, Anonymous are inviting users with the capabilities to verify them to do so as soon as possible.
Emails, just like text messages and electronic media, have become evidence in court. The headers of the emails confirm their sources and routes via their unique ID. If they were falsified, everyone would notice it, especially computer specialists. I invite all those who are in doubt to verify (them).
In early April, the Tunisian government announced it was keeping the Tunisian Internet Agency in operation, in order to fight against cybercrime. Under Ben Ali, the agency directed Internet censorship for the Constitutional Democracy Rally (RCD), the dictator’s former party. Anonymous believe censorship is returning, cloaked in the principle of “securing the web”. Incompatible, according to the collective, with the guarantee of individual freedoms.
Those who run the country are those who must bear responsibility. But if the Government changes its course of action, especially concerning censorship of the Internet, Anonymous will back off.