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Did French customs topple Ben Ali?

Seven tonnes of tear gas and security material destined to prop up former Tunisian regime was blocked at Paris airport

MORE than seven tonnes of security equipment, destined to helping the former Tunisian president Ben Ali tackle riots in the country, was blocked at a Paris airport last week.

According to news website www.rue89.com, the packages were destined for the Tunisian interior ministry, but were blocked from delivery Friday morning at Charles de Gaulle airport, hours before Ben Ali announced he was stepping down.

The provider of the material, Sofexi, told the website that the Tunisian government had been a client since 2008, but refused to comment on when the order was made.

French customs blocked the delivery in order carry out a systematic verification of each box, which was scheduled for Monday.

The website obtained the following footage of the packages.

Du gaz lacrymogène bloqué à Roissy
envoyé par rue89. - L'info internationale vidéo.

While such a procedure is regularly carried out on deliveries of material deemed “sensitive”, customs officers had already examined the contents once while en route to be packaged up for transport.

Defence journalist Jean-Dominique Merchet has posted on his site that the head of delivery group Hesnault had received a call from a "high authority" at the Elysée Palace that such a delivery was "out of the question".

Rue89 reports that, when asked to comment, the Ministry of Defence referred the matter to the Interior Ministry, who referred it to the Elysée, who referred it to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Photo: Magharebia

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