BENGHAZI – AT 9:04 A.M. ET: A key suspect in the terrorist attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, has been released by Tunisia. Major setback. From Fox:
A man linked by officials to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi has been conditionally released by a Tunisian judge due to lack of evidence, his lawyer said Tuesday.
The release of Ali Harzi, a 26-year-old Tunisian, appears to represent a blow to the investigation of the Sept. 11 attack on the consulate in Libya that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. The investigation in Libya itself has been stalled due to the weak central government in the face of the powerful militias, some of whom may have been involved in the attack.
Harzi was one of very few people in custody in relation to the attack. U.S. officials said in December that Egypt had also arrested a member of the Islamic Jihad group for possible links to the attack, but in general they lamented a lack of cooperation from local governments in their investigation and said most suspects remained free.
Harzi's lawyer, Anwar Oued-Ali, said the presiding judge had "conditionally freed" his client Monday night and he has to remain in the greater Tunis area in case the court needs him. The lawyer described the release as "correcting an irregular situation" because authorities never had any real evidence.
COMMENT: Tunisia, which had been a moderate Arab country, has gone Islamist in the last year, and I suspect the judge wanted to go home alive.
We don't appear to be making much progress in the Benghazi investigation. I'm guessing it will just fade away. I don't think the Obama administration has the will to put any real pressure on the Islamists, or, frankly, the clout.
I'm sure Secretary Clinton will be asked about this when she testifies, but expect a boilerplate answer like, "We are pursuing, with our counterparts among our Mideast friends, all avenues..." You get the picture.
January 8, 2012