Tunis 2014: Two young women killed The case of the shooters is reopened in Tunisian court

Bonn/Tunisia · Tunisian police officers shot and killed Ahlem Dalhoumi and her cousin Ons in Tunisia in 2014. Now the case is being reopened in court.

 In 2014, relatives and friends of Ahlem and Ons Dalhoumi demonstrate in front of the Tunisian Consulate General in Bonn. Photo: Nicolas Ottersbach

In 2014, relatives and friends of Ahlem and Ons Dalhoumi demonstrate in front of the Tunisian Consulate General in Bonn. Photo: Nicolas Ottersbach

Foto: Nicolas Ottersbach

It has been more than seven years since Ahlem Dalhoumi, then 21, and her cousin Ons (18) were fatally shot by Tunisian police officers. The North African country's highest court has now admitted the charges against the accused officers, allowing a proper trial to be opened. Even though this is not yet a verdict, it is an important step for the family of those killed and a legal sensation. "Nobody expected it, but we as a family did not give up," says Ahlem's aunt Arbia Dalhoumi, who lives in Bonn.

Ahlem and Ons were on their way home from a wedding party on 23 August 2014 when police officers opened fire (see "The Crime Scene"). Bullets hit Ahlem, Ons and cousin Yasmin, who, like Ahlem, comes from Bonn. Ahlem was killed immediately. Ons died that night from a severe head injury. Yasmin survived seriously injured with a bullet in her shoulder. The main suspect, Mourad H., was then arrested but released. The other ten police officers were allowed to return to patrol after a short time out.

No indictment at the time due to lack of evidence

Several judges dealt with the case, but no charges were ever brought due to lack of evidence. Mishaps also occurred in Germany. For example, the projectile that doctors in Bonn operated out of Yasmin's arm was sent by post and got lost. Again and again, the investigations were dragged out, as lawyer Michael Hakner reports, who has been involved in the case since the beginning, among others with colleagues in Tunisia. Judges were changed, governments changed, the Corona pandemic came, there were death threats against the family. "But there was basically the will to conduct the proceedings according to the rule of law.“

For on the other side were relatives and comrades-in-arms who became friends over the years and repeatedly put their finger on the wound. In Bonn, among others, the then SPD member of parliament Uli Kelber met with the Tunisian consul, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was foreign minister at the time, also intervened. The family also met with political dignitaries, ministers and presidents in Tunisia. There were demonstrations in both countries. An association was founded to coordinate and finance the action. Through a Facebook group, there were always reports as soon as something happened. The last two are from Ahlem's parents personally. "The road to justice was long. Seeking justice against the one who killed my daughter was hard," writes father Mongi Dalhoumi. "The battle is not yet won but we have taken another big step forward," Fadhila Dalhoumi posted as an aunt.

Request for a main trial has now been granted

"What is happening in Tunisia right now is not yet a verdict, but it is the possibility that the trial will be allowed in its prescribed form with this indictment," Hakner explains. What has always failed so far is that a main trial has been opened. The prosecution had sent an indictment to the competent court, which granted the request for a main trial for premeditated murder against all police officers involved. The defence had apparently appealed against this, which is why the judges had to decide. "This is similar to what happens in Germany," Hakner explains. However, he says, it is very unlikely in Germany that such an appeal would be successful. Hakner also attributes the fact that the case has not yet been filed to the fact that there was consistent pressure from the public and attention was repeatedly drawn to the unsolved case. In addition, the Tunisian interior minister played an important role. He has said that anyone who commits a bad crime, whether a general or a policeman, must bear responsibility for it.

"When we received the news, we burst into tears," says Arbia Dalhoumi, one of the aunts. They had learned last week that the decision would be made on Friday. "From 9am to 5pm we were shaking." They received the information from their Tunisian lawyer, who wants to send the translated documents in the next few days so that the progress can also be noted in the German files. Dalhoumi assumes that everything will go faster now. "The main hearing will probably take place in the next few weeks, the prosecution has compiled 110 pages." All eleven police officers are listed, but the two who fired shots will be tried first. "The others will then follow one by one."

Original text: Nicolas Ottersbach

Translation: Mareike Graepel

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