By Monia Ghanmi
Hackers calling themselves “Anonymous Tunisia” recently broke into the personal email of Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, releasing thousands of messages allegedly belonging to the head of government.
The April 8th attack, dubbed “Operation Tunisia Back” by the hackers, was announced on social media sites and YouTube. The group leaked 2,725 emails belonging to the head of government and other prominent Ennahda members. The breach came just a month after a series of piracy acts targeting Islamist websites in Tunisia.
The leaked documents included an email from Jebali to the Turkish Embassy containing an attachment with the biography of Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem and a message from a member of Ennahda to Jebali saying Tunisians could vote twice in elections, once abroad and once in Tunisia. Other messages included financial transactions, bank accounts and correspondence with some foreign ambassadors.
“We decided to publish classified documents of the Ennahda Movement, including personal email addresses, telephone numbers and bank transactions, in addition to financial receipts from during the movement’s election campaign,” Anonymous said in an April 8th audio message posted online.
Users of social networks re-posted the leaked documents on their own pages amidst the exchange of positions.
The hackers also threatened to publish secret data if the government did not respect human rights freedom of expression, and the online freedom in Tunisia.
The group is still holding onto a large portion of the secret government documents and announced that it would publish them in a timely manner.
Anonymous said it hacked Jebali’s email because the government had moved against protestors, ignored the issue of those wounded in the revolution, and appointed politicians loyal to Ennahda. The hack was also done to protest the government’s silence on abuses carried out by Salafists, according to the cyber activists.
Tunisians, for their part, had mixed reactions to the hack.
“I think it is forged data aimed at disrupting the government’s work,” commented Manal Amri. “Anyone can purport to be the head of government and compose communications and data, and therefore these hackers cannot be trusted.”
But Ali Snoussi said it was “very important for the group Anonymous to expose the excesses of political parties and exercise oversight over them so Tunisian citizens know what they are and choose better in the next election.”
“To an extent I was pleased to hear the news, because it shows that our young people excel at using and dealing with modern means of communication,” said Khadija Louati. But she added that it bothered her “that the prime minister cannot protect himself and his secrets, despite the existence of possible means”.
Anonymous is one of the largest groups of internet activists and hackers, consisting of members from across the globe who co-ordinate their activities through social networking sites. The group has no leader or hierarchy but operates under a common set of principles and logo.
In response to the Anonymous attack, Ennahda spokesman Najib Gharbi claimed that some of the information was false. “We do not condone piracy, because it is not civilised behaviour,” he added, saying the party intended to file a complaint.
In turn, Ameur Arayadh, chairman of the party’s political bureau, denounced the piracy operation against Islamists, saying that the practices were immoral and contrary to all laws and values.
“In any case, Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali is a public figure and has nothing to hide,” he added.
Last month, the Tunisian branch of Anonymous launched an attack against several Islamic websites, including the Ennahda Party page and the website of Hizb ut-Tahrir, which calls for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate.
“We are not against religion, for we are Muslims, but we stand for freedom in our country,” the hackers said in a message posted on social networking sites.