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Tunisian activists call for protests over Saudi crown prince visit

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisian activists are calling for protests over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi when Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visits next week.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a session of the Shura Council in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia November 19, 2018. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.

The crown prince on Thursday began a tour of several Arab countries in the United Arab Emirates, his first trip abroad since the murder, which has strained Saudi Arabia’s ties with the West and battered his image abroad.

While Tunisia’s presidency said on Friday he was welcome, activists have called for protests in front of the presidential palace in Carthage during Prince Mohammed’s trip on Tuesday and are trying to mount a legal challenge to stop the visit.

Since the 2011 uprising that ended the rule of former president Zine el-Abidine ben Ali and triggered the Arab Spring protests that convulsed the region, Tunisia has become one of the few Arab countries where protests are allowed.

“The blood of Khashoggi has not dried yet, the murderer bin Salman is not welcome in Tunisia, the country of democratic transition,” Neji Bghouri, the president of the journalists’ syndicate, said.

A group of 50 lawyers has been tasked by journalists, bloggers and human right activists to lodge a complaint in the Tunisian courts to oppose the visit, lawyer Nizar Boujlel said.

Saudi Arabia has said the crown prince had no prior knowledge of the killing of the Washington Post columnist at Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul last month.

After offering numerous contradictory explanations, Riyadh said last week Khashoggi had been killed and his body dismembered when negotiations to persuade him to return to Saudi Arabia failed.

King Salman asked his chosen heir, known in the West as MbS, to conduct the tour “based on his keenness to deepen the kingdom’s ties regionally and internationally”, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Nourredine Ben Ticha, adviser to Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi, said: “Bin Salman will visit Tunisia on Nov. 27. He is welcome in Tunisia, like the rest of the Arab brothers. Saudi Arabia has an important role in the Arab region.”

He said Tunisia had asked for the truth about the killing and the punishment of those involved, but said the situation should not be exploited “to harm the stability of a brotherly country like Saudi Arabia”.

Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Alison Williams