Tunisia’s former top prosecutor admitted to psychiatric hospital after arrest

Bechir Akermi, who was dismissed from his role as prosecutor in 2020 is facing allegations relating to stalling terrorism investigations

The Palace of Justice in Tunis. Bechir Akermi was detained in a wave of arrests across Tunisia last week. AP
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Bechir Akermi, Tunisia’s former senior prosecutor in charge of terrorism and financial crimes and a dismissed judge, has been admitted to Razi psychiatric hospital in Manouba.

Mr Akermi was arrested last week as part of a wave of arrests that included opposing politicians, a businessman and the director of the largest private radio station in Tunisia.

He was initially released before the country's prosecution service ordered his immediate admission to an inpatient psychiatric care facility.

Local media reported the decision came after Mr Akermi suffered ‘breakdown’ at the Bouchoucha detention centre and a committee of three forensic psychiatrists agreed on the need for hospital treatment.

Meanwhile, Mr Akermi's wife, Mouna Gharbi, denied to independent local outlet Kashf Media that her husband had ever contemplated suicide and said his admission to Razi “is an attempt to silence him”.

Ms Gharbi also stated that the last time she was able to communicate with her husband, he told her he “was fine and none of the allegations concern him”, according to the same source.

Mr Akermi's arrest came after a complaint filed by security officials accused him of negligence in the investigation of the Bardo Museum terrorist attack in 2015.

His defence team said it held judicial authorities and medical staff at Razi Psychiatric Hospital responsible for his life and for his physical and psychological well-being.

They also denounced a decision to prevent Mr Akermi’s family from visiting, insisting family, lawyers and a doctor chosen by the family must be allowed to see him.

Tunisian law stipulates that in the case of a hospital stay because of mental illness, the patient or their respective guardian has the right to choose a doctor to review the decision. It also says a date for person's release from hospital detention should be given within four days of their admission.

In a phone call with The National, a member of Razi Psychiatric Hospital’s Forensic Psychiatry department, who did not identify themselves, declined to neither give a statement regarding Mr Akermi’s condition nor explain the legal framework leading to a person’s forced admission into their facility, explaining that it was “illegal” to speak with the media at the moment.

Tunisian President Kais Saied accused some of those arrested over the past week of attempting “to escape the hands of justice” through using the “insanity plea” in a meeting with Minister of the Interior Taoufik Charfeddine and other high ranking security official, last Friday.

Updated: February 20, 2023, 5:48 PM