Rabat – Tunisian authorities arrested and deported Prince Moulay Hicham on Friday at the Movenpick hotel in Tunis. The first cousin of King Mohammed VI was in the Tunisian capital to attend a conference on governance and security in Morocco, Egypt, and Yemen, scheduled to take place on Sunday.
According to media reports, the prince was deported to Paris at the end of the day on an Air France flight.
— Ignacio Cembrero (@icembrero) September 8, 2017
Ignacio Cembrero, a former El Pais correspondent, posted on his official Twitter account that “the men who came to arrest Moulay Hicham at the pool took him to his room in order to change, and to pack luggage, before taking him to a police station, where a verbal order of deportation was presented to him.”
The prince was transported to the airport by a police car. According to the correspondent, the Prince was informed by the head of Air France office in Tunis International airport that the “decision was political.”
Moulay Hicham landed in Tunis on Friday morning and had gone through customs procedures without incident.
In a statement to Maghreb Voices, Moulay Hicham confirmed the news, but declined to elaborate.
It is not clear why the Prince has been declared persona non grata in Tunis. At the time of writing neither Moroccan nor Tunisian authorities have commented on the deportation of the Moroccan Prince.
Sources close to the matter told Morocco World News that “the decision to deport Prince Moulay Hisham, the cousin of King Mohamed VI of Tunisia might be is linked to the pressure exerted by the Saudi and Emirati diplomacy on the Tunisian authorities because of his participation in a seminar on ‘Security Challenges in Tunisia and Yemen Morocco,’ organized by Stanford University, a symposium that apparently angered Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”
French-language news outlet MondAfrique suggested that the Emiratis and Saudis were likely behind the decision to expel the Moroccan Prince from Tunis. Moulay Hicham was due to speak in an upcoming conference in Qatar, which Doha had cancelled, according to Arabic news site Raialyoum.com.
Both outlets stressed that the Saudi and the Emiratis, who are embroiled in an unprecedented diplomatic crisis with Qatar, did not approve of the participation of the Moroccan Prince in the Tunis and Doha conferences.
Since the start of the Arab Spring, Moulay Hicham has been a vocal defender of Arab youth calling for change and for the establishment of democratic institutions across the Arab region.
His positions have been anathema to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have striven for the past six years to reverse the tide of the Arabic Spring and abort all attempts at building democratic institutions in the region. These efforts were exemplified in the key role they played in aborting the Egyptian transition to democracy by toppling Mohammed Morsi, the first democratically-elected President in Egypt’s history, and replacing him with Abdelfattah El Sisi.