“Decriminalising Bitcoin”: Tunisia Takes Another Decisive Step

Tunisa Bitcoin Legal

Bitcoin, the new sweetheart of Tunisia? – The king of cryptocurrency manages to turn over previously suspicious countries. Tunisia is currently becoming even more crypto-friendly, particularly by decriminalizing some Bitcoin (BTC) transactions.

Bitcoin is not a crime

On June 12, Tunisian Economy Minister Ali Kooli expressed his intention to alter the legislation of cryptocurrency. Indeed, he wishes to legalize the possession, mining, and usage of cryptocurrencies as a form of payment. He promised to “modify the legislation so that you can’t throw a young Tunisian in jail for buying bitcoins.”

Interview with Ali Kooli, Tunisian Minister of Economy – Source: Twitter

Marouane Abassi, the governor of Tunisia’s Central Bank, has previously stated the necessity to keep an eye Bitcoin and the blockchain. He specifically asked for robust monitoring of BTC use cases. Furthermore, Tunisia and Afghanistan were looking for ways to issue Bitcoin-based bonds back in 2019 to salvage their economies.

According to Abbasi, the country formed a special panel to investigate the mechanics of a bitcoin sovereign bond as well as what cryptocurrencies and blockchain may offer. Since 2019 the Tunisian Central Bank has been looking into the possibility of digitizing its money.

What the Houssem Bouguerra case reveals

The case began on March 12, 2021. The extensive usage of air conditioners at the private residence of Houssem Bouguerra, a 35-year-old engineer, was reported to police authorities in the Monastir region. A search yields the confiscation of two central units and around forty graphics cards. The young man and his brother-in-law Iyadh were caught and detained for secretly organizing games.

The investigations ordered by the Monastir Public Prosecutor report the production of cryptocurrencies. The two suspects were then charged with falsifying a money transfer instrument in violation of Law 51/2005 of June 27, 2005, governing electronic payments transfers. They are being held in custody.

The investigating judge in charge of the case asked for judicial expertise, which decides that the two accused were engaged in cryptocurrency mining, which is not governed by Tunisian law and hence legal. The magistrate then decides to dismiss the case and orders the defendants’ freedom. The prosecution filed an appeal, and the indictment chamber upheld Iyadh’s release while keeping Houssem behind the prison.

On May 6, 2021, the investigating judge decided to close the case once again, and the prosecution appealed once more. On June 9, 2021, another hearing took place. Houssem’s parole request is postponed to June 15 and subsequently to June 22, the day on which the young guy regains his freedom but remains under investigation. In the interim, he will have endured a hunger strike that has severely harmed his health: already diabetic, Bouguerra has nearly lost the use of one eye. When asked about this at the ARP, the governor of the Central Bank, Marouane Abbassi, voiced his despair.

Before delving into the details of this case, it is crucial to identify the Bitcoin technology that landed the young guy in jail for more than three months.

A cryptocurrency is a virtual currency that does not rely on any state or central bank and is created by networked computers distributed throughout the globe. Bitcoin is the most well-known. Algorithms are conducted by numerous computers to produce this money and validate transactions, ensuring the operation’s trustworthiness. This activity, known as mining, necessitates speed and computational power. Miners are compensated. As a result, we comprehend the mining craze.

As a result, we hold Houssem Bouguerra responsible for his mining activities. Because Tunisian legislation has yet to incorporate this new technology into its regulations, two visions clashed: that of the investigating judge, who believed in the principle that anything that is not prohibited is lawful, and that of the prosecution, who searched the legal arsenal for similar offenses with which to charge the young man. The tremendous mobilization of a segment of civil society in support of the engineer most likely paid off – we recall that he is still being tried – but this does not diminish the gravity of the case, which highlights multiple flaws in Tunisian justice.

Almost systematic incarceration

First and foremost, Houssem Bouguerra, like thousands of other captives, was subjected to nearly systematic detention. While imprisonment should be the exception rather than the rule, our courts do not hesitate to issue committal warrants during investigations, even for minor offenses. This rule inversion, along with tardy justice, is causing jail overpopulation and shattering lives. Obviously, there are a few exceptions to this “habit”: if the accused belongs to a protected caste (politicians, police, etc.), he is entitled to more tolerance from the magistrates.

Then, as previously said, the prosecution’s zealous pursuit of the accused reflects not just a desire to criminalize anything out of the norm, but also a mentality of perpetual suspicion, or, to put it another way, the assumption of guilt. To be clear, it is not the person of the public prosecutor of Monastir, but a Tunisian State culture that dates back at least to independence. The public authorities sees the citizen as a potential criminal or fraudster who must establish his innocence.

Pleasing the IMF at Any Cost?

Can Tunisia go as far as El Salvador and declare Bitcoin legal? The nation is now considering the magnitude of the loan package to deal with the problem with the IMF. During a session in Parliament on May 21, Abbasi stated that “if we don’t talk with the IMF, no one would agree” to provide Tunisia with the necessary foreign money.

The IMF, predictably, responded negatively and angrily to El Salvador’s move to declare Bitcoin a national currency. Indeed, El Salvador has requested a loan of more than a billion dollars from the Bretton Woods institution, an operation that may be jeopardized now that the government has announced its intention to legalize Bitcoin. The Tunisian Central Bank, for its part, appears to wish to stay in the good graces of the IMF for the time being.

Bitcoin in Tunisia: Banned or not?

While the price of Bitcoin reached an all-time high of $66,000 in October 2021, the rest of the globe did not follow suit. Some nations continue to be denied it, while others remain indecisive. This is especially true in Tunisia, where cryptocurrency is neither entirely legal nor completely banned. However, a shift is in the air, and the country may soon benefit from more controlled and monitored use of Bitcoin.

In Bitcoin, we speak about tolerance rather than legality. Large countries like the United States and Canada are supportive of Bitcoin. European governments support the virtual currency by advocating regulation and control of crypto exchanges. In some countries, such as Afghanistan or Bangladesh, owning or purchasing Bitcoin is punishable by imprisonment.

Tunisia, on the other hand, has been floating between two waters since the start of the crypto journey. Tunisian authorities are still unsure what to do with Bitcoin. Bitcoins have no legal origins, and this was rapidly associated with money laundering. However, practically all crypto-currencies function in a decentralized fashion, making it impossible to determine their origin.
The event provoked outrage in the Tunisian blockchain community and was widely condemned on social media. In response, Tunisian Finance Minister Ali Kooli advocated for the “decriminalization” of cryptocurrency ownership in an interview with a local television program.

On the way to a more flexible regulation of cryptocurrencies in Tunisia

The Tunisian government’s concerns about cryptocurrency are well-founded, and all other governments across the world share them. They regard it as a danger to their present financial system and a too simple way of laundering money or engaging in unlawful activities.
However, because of the decentralized nature of these electronic currencies, it is difficult to prohibit them. And Bitcoin rates are so appealing that Tunisian people are requesting them. Furthermore, the numbers of transactions recorded by crypto trading platforms demonstrate this.

Furthermore, it must be acknowledged that Tunisian cryptocurrency users make use of the ambiguity in bitcoin law to their advantage and continue, for example, to perform cryptocurrency mining. Even though “one cannot penalize someone for solving an algorithm or keeping a copy of a public publication,” it remains an opaque activity.
Some Tunisian authorities recognize that, with the spread of Bitcoin and the rising interest of investors, it is critical to issue a clear ruling on the legality of Bitcoin in Tunisia. In the interim, Bitcoins may already be obtained in Tunisian cash through the Tunisian mining community.

The objective for Bitcoin users in Tunisia is to avoid becoming trapped in a cycle in which some countries advance while others decline. China is a prime example of this since Satoshi Nakamoto’s cryptocurrency is now “banned” in the country after several years of “limited” use.

In Tunisia, owning Bitcoin is no longer a criminal, but there is still a long way to go. In summary, certain Tunisian elected officials and ministers believe in the feasibility of developing a legislative framework for efficient oversight of these digital assets and what they do. As a result, while it will not be complete deregulation of electronic currencies, it will be a significant step forward.

“Decriminalising Bitcoin”: Tunisia Takes Another Decisive Step – Summary

  • Tunisia is currently becoming even more crypto-friendly, particularly by decriminalizing some Bitcoin transactions.
  • According to Abbasi, the country formed a special panel to investigate the mechanics of a bitcoin sovereign bond as well as what cryptocurrencies and blockchain may offer.
  • Can Tunisia go as far as El Salvador and declare Bitcoin legal tender? The nation is now considering the magnitude of the loan package to deal with the problem with the IMF. During a session in Parliament on May 21, Abbasi stated that “If we don’t talk with the IMF, no one would agree” to provide Tunisia with the necessary foreign money.
  • Tunisian authorities are still unsure what to do with Bitcoin.
  • Bitcoin rates are so appealing that Tunisian people are requesting them.
  • Some Tunisian authorities recognize that, with the spread of Bitcoin and the rising interest of investors, it is critical to issue a clear ruling on the legality of Bitcoin in Tunisia.
  • The objective for Bitcoin users in Tunisia is to avoid becoming trapped in a cycle in which some countries advance while others decline.
Is Bitcoin legal in Tunisia?

Egypt, Iraq, Qatar, Oman, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Bangladesh, and China have all banned cryptocurrency

Are cryptocurrencies legal in Tunisa?

Egypt, Iraq, Qatar, Oman, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Bangladesh, and China have all banned cryptocurrency

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