According to The Associated Press, The US Embassy in Tunisia said earlier today (May 29) that it is "deeply troubled" that the 20 people convicted of attacking the embassy on September 14, 2012, only received suspended sentences.
A mob of some 2,000 people, mostly religious conservatives, attacked the US Embassy compound and destroyed destroying cars, property, burning the American flag and a nearby American school, ostensibly in response to a video clip released in the US that failed to be untrue. Four of the 2,000 protesters were killed during hostilities.
In actuality, the attack on the embassy was part of a much larger conspiracy to attack US diplomatic facilities throughout the Middle East.
"We are deeply troubled by reports of suspended sentences," the embassy said. "The verdicts do not correspond appropriately to the extent and severity of the damage and violence that took place." The sternly worded statement said Tunisia's government must show there is no tolerance for those resorting to violence to achieve their goals and that the court's "decision fails in this regard."
COMMENT: The leader of the ultra-conservative Ansar al-Shariah organization, Seifallah Ben Hassine, is being sought in connection with the attack, but he remains at large after slipping through a police cordon at the time.
The violence was deeply embarrassing to the Tunisian government, which is run by moderate Islamists, and it marked the hardening of the state's position to the rising power of the ultraconservative Muslims known as "salafis."
Seventy-three people were arrested in connection with the attack on the embassy, but only only 20 were prosecuted. The one-session trial was unusually brief for such cases.
Tunis is the capital of both the Tunisian Republic and the Tunis Governorate. It is Tunisia's largest city, with a population of 2,256,320 as of 2011; the greater metropolitan area holds some 2,412,500 inhabitants.
Situated on a large Mediterranean Sea gulf (the Gulf of Tunis), behind the Lake of Tunis and the port of La Goulette (Halq al Wadi), the city extends along the coastal plain and the hills that surround it.