Mokhtar Trifi, president of the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights, was extremely cheerful when we met for lunch recently. In a deliciously cool restaurant on a very hot day, he regaled me with stories of what happened after the last time we met for lunch, back in February 2007. Following that meeting, I had written a column that quoted him asking me, in effect, why Americans did not promote democracy in Tunisia.
"You have no idea what trouble that caused me," he said, laughing. After the column appeared, Trifi was denounced in Tunisia's undemocratic parliament, on the grounds that he was "advocating an American invasion of Tunisia in the American press." Horrified, I told him I hadn't written that at all. He waved away my apologies: "Never mind, they accused me of far worse things. And now it doesn't matter. Write about me anything you want!"