The Contentious Egg
Article :Nebras elHidili
Illustration :Amro okacha
Tunisia’s Minister of Culture Mehdi Mabrouk had his own taste of egg diplomacy when filmmaker Nasreddine Shili pelted the minister with one single egg.
Danger in knowing the truth
The Minister of Culture was attending a 40-day memorial ceremony for Azzouz Chennaoui on August 16 at the Ibn Khaldun House of Culture in Tunis. Najib al-Obeidi, who witnessed the incident, said that Shili tried to approach the minister to express his condemnation of the ministry’s negligence of artists and its lack of support for them, which were allegedly among the reasons that led to the death of Cehnnaoui.
"Your support to Chennaoui now has no value," Shili told the minister in a protesting tone. "We have been asking you to help him when he was being treated in the hospital. But you did nothing."
The minister allegedly refused to speak to Shili and asked his escorts to push Shili away, telling them that he didn’t want to see him.
Nasreddine quickly left and came back carrying an egg, which he hurled at the minister’s face.
In the meantime, Mourad Meherzi, a cameraman, was covering the memorial and his camera was quick to capture the egg-throwing event.
The footage quickly become a source of trouble for Mourad and a source of embarrassment for the minister.
Aftermath of the egg
Shortly after the incident, several media outlets started to spread news about the minister’s statements in which he spoke about physical violence against him. He also claimed that he was punched on the face. The Minister, after this incident, was allegedly taken to the hospital.
However, the video clip of Mourad’s lens, which accurately shows the details of the incident, made the media correct the previously broadcasted news.
Less than two days after the incident, the anti-crime force knocked on the door of Mourad’s home late one night. Mourad opened the door and asked the force members to give him some time to bring with him some essential personal items. As Mourad was preparing himself, the force stormed the house and took Mourad’s camera and personal computer.
Najib al-Obeidi, a political activist, said that Mourad was arrested because he gave evidence about the false statements made by Mehdi Mabrouk, the Culture Minister. The evidence caused the minister, the prime ministry and everyone who supported him embarrassment and made it difficult for the minister to take revenge.
After three more days, the major actor of this incident, Shili, was arrested. The security forces were able to tighten their grip and to follow Shili, who was accused of a premeditated and deliberate attack on the minister. Shili, who left his house and sought shelter at the house of Ibrahim Raouf, his fellow artist, in the coastal city of Sousse, soon discovered that Mourad has been imprisoned in one of the Tunis’ civil prisons.
"This is a political incident par excellence," said Obeidi.
"The Minister of Culture has provoked artists with his double standards. He has recently bought one of the paintings of the Abdelliya exhibition. When he was personally attacked by the Salafists, he started to criticize the artistic nature of the exhibition. This time, he ignored all our calls to save the life of Shinawi before his death," he said.
"We were surprised to see him attending the memorial. If given the opportunity, I would throw eggs at the members of this failed government without any hesitation."
A penalty of five years imprisonment
Ayoub Gdhemsi, one of the lawyers on Mehrezi’s and Shili’s case, said that there is a lawsuit filed by the minister accusing Mehrezi and Shili of violent physical and verbal assault against him. “My two clients were arrested by the anti-crime force and the public prosecution issued their imprisonment order against charges of deliberate violent assault on a public official. The two were also accused of being under the influence of alcohol, inciting disorder and chaos and insulting other people through the use of the public communication network.”
Ayoub Gdhemsi, “The minister deliberately exaggerated the incident, claiming that he was punched, based on the presence of the egg-attack mark on his face and the egg on his clothes, but the video of Mourad firmly refuted his claim,” asserted the lawyer.
The lawyer went a step further by stressing that his client, Shili, was subjected to extreme violence by the Minister’s escorts, based on the statements of his client and Mourad’s video.
Ayoub Gdhemsi considered the arrest of his client Mourad as illegal because it took place without obtaining permission from the prosecutor. Moreover, the arrest intimidated his elderly parents. According to Gdhemsi, the arrest by the anti-crime force is unjustified and it is an act intended to intimidate people.
Gdhemsi added that if convicted, the charges would be punishable by up to five years imprisonment. He claims however, that there is no evidence to support the charges; he feels assured that they will not be imprisoned for a long period. Moreover, the law related to public servants offenses does not apply on this incident.
"My client Mourad was present because he was performing his job as a cameraman covering an ordinary event," Ayoub said, adding that "he has an official assignment from his superiors to cover the memorial." Ayoub commented saying that "implicating Mourad in this way is an act of revenge."
"My client did not commit any criminal act. His behavior is an act of protest practiced in democratic countries and in some incidents presidents were attacked in a similar manner with no repercussions whatsoever in many of such incidents," he concluded.