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 financial corruption.

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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 Tunis.

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.

She said 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.

She added 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.


In 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.”

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