Dozens sentenced over deadly 2015 Tunisia attacks

Tunisian court hands down convictions, including life sentences, to dozens involved in 2015 deadly attacks.

    Dozens of defendants faced two separate trials over the closely linked shootings, which occurred just months apart in Tunis and Sousse [File: Fethi Belaid/AFP]
    Dozens of defendants faced two separate trials over the closely linked shootings, which occurred just months apart in Tunis and Sousse [File: Fethi Belaid/AFP]

    A Tunisian court has sentenced seven people to life in prison over attacks at a museum and on a beach in 2015 that killed 60 people, many of them foreign tourists.

    Dozens of defendants faced two separate trials over the closely linked shootings, which occurred just months apart in Tunis and Sousse, but many were acquitted.

    Four were sentenced to life in prison for the shooting rampage at a Sousse tourist resort in June 2015, which killed 38 people, mostly British tourists.

    Five other defendants in the Sousse case were handed jail terms ranging from six months to six years, while 17 were acquitted, prosecution spokesman Sofiene Sliti said on Saturday. 

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    Three were given life sentences for the attack in March 2015 at the capital's Bardo National Museum, in which two gunmen killed 21 foreign tourists and a Tunisian security guard.

    Others found guilty of links to the Bardo attack were sentenced to prison terms ranging from one to 16 years, and a dozen defendants were acquitted, Sliti said.

    The prosecution will launch an appeal, he added.

    The court heard that the two attacks, both claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), were closely linked.

    'Duty' to ISIL 

    Among those who were facing trial were six security personnel accused of failing to provide assistance to people in danger during the Sousse attack.

    Seifeddine Rezgui opened fire on a beach before rampaging into a high-end hotel, where he was armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle and grenades, before being shot dead by police.

    Four French nationals, four Italians, three Japanese and two Spaniards were among those killed in the Bardo attack, before the two gunmen, armed with assault rifles, were shot dead.

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    Investigations showed one of the attackers, Yassine Laabidi, who was from a poor district near Tunis, had amphetamines in his body.

    His fellow attacker Jaber Khachnaoui, from Tunisia's Kasserine region, had travelled to Syria in December 2014 via Libya.

    One suspect questioned in court, Mahmoud Kechouri, said he helped plan the Bardo attack, including preparing mobile phones for Sandi, a neighbour and longtime friend.

    Kechouri, 33, said he was driven by a "duty to participate in the emergence of the caliphate".

    Other defendants accused of helping prepare the attack said they had only discussed ideas with friends.
    Several alleged they were tortured in detention.

    'Finally recognised victims' 

    Victims' family members in France and Belgium watched Friday's hearing via a live video feed.

    "It was important for us to see, and especially to hear, to try to understand the role" of each defendant, said one French survivor.

    "Arriving at the end of the process will help us to turn the page, even if we can never forget."

    The attacks and resulting travel warnings dealt a devastating blow to Tunisia's vital tourism sector from which it has taken time to recover. 

    SOURCE: AFP news agency