Suha Arafat, the widow of PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, said on Wednesday that the
Tunisian government’s corruption charges against her are part of a campaign to
defame her husband and the Palestinian cause.
Her comments came in
response to Tunisia’s decision to issue an arrest warrant against her for
'Tunisia issues arrest warrant for Arafat's widow, Suha'
The allegations date back to a 2006 business deal,
when Suha had a business dispute with the then-first lady of Tunisia, Leila
Trabelssi, over the establishment of an international school in
The two women had established the school as a joint project that
was supposed to serve 1,500 pupils.
A year later, the Tunisian
authorities stripped Suha Arafat of her Tunisian citizenship, declared her
persona non grata and expelled her from the country.
Since then she has
been living in Malta.
In statements published in a number of Palestinian
media outlets on Wednesday, Suha, 48, denied the charges against her and said
she had taken a $200,000 loan from a bank to build the school.
that she later gave up her share in the school, but the former first lady of
Tunisia decided to close it down.
Suha claimed that the arrest warrant
coincided with the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to seek membership in UNESCO
and the UN, with the aim of defaming her husband and the Palestinian cause. She
said that if her husband were alive he would have told her not to worry about
the allegations and that they [the Tunisians] can go to hell.
that the then-first lady of Tunisia “kicked her and her daughter Zahwa, out from
Tunisia in a humiliating manner. The Tunisian authorities packed all our
personal belongings in cartons and asked us to leave the house which was given
to us in Tunis,” Suha Arafat said. “Trabelssi also threatened to throw our
personal items to the street within 48 hours if we did not leave the country.
She also stripped me of my Tunisian citizenship.”
She said that since
Arafat’s death the PA has been paying her a monthly salary of $12,000.
an interview with a Tunisian TV station, Suha said that the school was the only
business she had with Trabelssi.
“It was a humanitarian deal,” she
explained. “I wanted to start a university for underprivileged people. Leila
[Trabelssi] was the real president of Tunisia for 23 years. All of the Tunisian
people were oppressed. I was also a victim of her.”