Tunisian prosecutors opposed freeing Libya suspect

January 10, 2013 - 3:33 PM
Tunisia US Libya Attack

FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012 file photo, a Libyan man investigates the inside of the U.S. Consulate after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, on the night of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya. A man linked to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi has been conditionally released by Tunisian authorities due to lack of evidence, his lawyer said Tuesday Jan. 8, 2013. The release of Ali Harzi, a 26-year-old Tunisian, appears to represent a blow to the investigation of the Sept. 11 attack on the consulate in Libya. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon, File)

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia's attorney general's office opposed the recent release of one of the only people in custody for the September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in the Libyan city of Benghazi that killed four Americans, an official said Thursday. The prosecutor's opposition means the decision could be reversed on appeal.

Ali Harzi, a 28-year-old Tunisian, was extradited from Turkey in October and at the time Tunisian authorities said they "strongly suspected" he was involved in the attack, whose victims included U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

A judge released him Monday night for lack of evidence, dealing a blow to an investigation that has limped along for months. Harzi must, however, remain in the Tunis area in case he is needed for further questioning.

Fawzi Jaballah, an adviser to Tunisia's Justice Ministry, confirmed Thursday that the attorney general's office had opposed the release. An appeals court will now hear the prosecution's side and could order Harzi be placed back in custody.

The FBI, which questioned Harzi for three hours in the presence of a Tunisian judge in December, declined to comment on the release.

On Sept. 11, armed groups assaulted the lightly guarded Benghazi mission and killed Stevens and three other diplomats. There has been little news of progress so far in bringing the perpetrators to justice, and U.S. officials have complained about a lack of cooperation with the governments of the region, particularly Libya, in the investigation.

Mounting a coherent investigation is difficult for the Libyan government â€" especially in Benghazi â€" because authorities rely on the militias who fought and helped topple former leader Moammar Gadhafi. It is often difficult to draw clear lines between those providing security and those causing the instability.