TUNIS, Tunisia A man linked by officials to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi has been conditionally released by a Tunisian judge for 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 because of the weak power of the 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 over the attack. U.S. officials said in December that Egypt had arrested a member of the Islamic Jihad group for possible links, 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 real proof.
Harzi was originally detained in Turkey and in October was extradited to Tunisia, where authorities had said he was “strongly suspected” of being involved in the attack. His lawyer said he was officially charged with “membership of a terrorist organization” — a charge punishable by six to 12 years in prison.