Interdict to stop extradition
Johannesburg - The Media Review Network (MRN) has secured a court interdict to prevent a man from being extradited to Tunisia after he was arrested at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.
"We secured the interdict last night (Sunday) after his arrest so that he won't be extradited to Tunisia," MRN chairperson Iqbal Jassat told Sapa on Monday.
"There is currently an ongoing legal process."
Muhammed Ali Harrath, 47, is the CEO of Islam Channel, a UK-based television channel broadcast on DStv.
He was arrested on arrival in South Africa on Sunday when his passport was scanned and showed a red flag notice.
Had to be hospitalised
Hawks spokesperson Musa Zondi said the red flag notice was a way for Interpol to track people on its most wanted list.
Jassat said while being detained, Harrath became ill and had to be hospitalised.
"He has a heart condition, he was taken to the Eugene Marais hospital in Pretoria, where he is being closely monitored."
Jassat said Harrath was a political refugee who sought asylum in the UK, after leaving Tunisia about 20 years ago.
"He is a refugee who didn't commit any crime apart from being a human rights activist back then."
Jassat said if Harrath had to be sent back to Tunisia, his penalties included death if he was given the maximum sentence, or life imprisonment as a minimum sentence.
He also had a legal work permit for the UK.
"This man has a huge profile and is highly respected within Muslim society... we find it very strange that he has travelled so widely over the years, but on his first trip to South Africa, this happens.
"Why wait for when he landed at OR Tambo International? We don't have answers."
Harrath's family living in the UK were being informed of his situation regularly by a colleague also associated with Islam Channel, who travelled to South Africa with him.
"Hopefully, he gets to join them (his family) soon... We all know the dismal human rights records that Tunisia displays."
Comment from Zondi on the MRN's version of events could not be obtained on Monday afternoon.
The MRN, according to its website, aims to "dispel the myths and stereotypes about Islam and Muslims and to foster bridges of understanding among the diverse people of our country".