Prince Moulay Hicham
Morocco's Prince Moulay Hicham Source: YouTube

Prince Moulay Hicham, the first cousin of Morocco's king, was deported from Tunisia on Friday.

The Moroccan royal arrived in Tunis on Friday morning without incident, planning to speak at a Sunday conference discussing governance, security and democracy in Morocco, Egypt, and Yemen, according to Morocco World News. However, as he enjoyed the swimming pool at his hotel, Tunisian police came and told him he must leave the country.

"Policemen came to my hotel shortly after my arrival yesterday (Friday) and I was taken to the airport," Prince Hicham said, according to AFP.

"The policemen were embarrassed; they only spoke about a 'sovereign decision' and agreed to cancel the entry stamp on my passport," he said.

The 'rebel prince'

Prince Hicham, who resides in the U.S. and had traveled to Tunisia from France, has been referred to as the "rebel prince" due to his criticism of Morocco's political system. He has also voiced consistent support for Arab youth and bringing democratic governance to the region.

"I had come to discuss the challenge facing Tunisia's democratic transition," the Moroccan royal explained.

The reason for Prince Hicham's expulsion remains unclear, but Air France, which transported him, reportedly said that the "decision was political." The prince has declined to speculate on the motivation behind the deportation, but others have pointed fingers.

External pressure?

Some have suggested Tunisia made the decision due to pressure from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. 

A source familiar with the matter told Morocco World News that the decision had nothing to do with Moroccan authorities.

"[The decision] is linked to the pressure exerted by the Saudi and Emirati diplomacy on the Tunisian authorities because of his participation in a seminar on ‘Security Challenges in Tunisia, Yemen and Morocco,’ organized by Stanford University, a symposium that apparently angered Saudi Arabia and the UAE," the source said.

Over the past few years, Tunisia has been hailed by many as an example of a successful democratic transition in the Arab world. Following the 2011 "Arab Spring," the North African country has implemented a secular government and addressed numerous societal issues, such as major women's rights issues.