Ben Ali to face trial in absentia

Former Tunisian president remains in Saudi Arabia as authorities in Tunis prepare charges against the long-time ruler.

    The Tunisian revolution was the first and so far the most successful of a string of uprisings in the Arab world [Getty]

    Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia's former president who fled to Saudi Arabia in January, will be tried in absentia, Tunisia's interim prime minister said on Monday.

    "Ben Ali's trial will start on June 20," Beji Caid Sebsi said in an interview on Al Jazeera. "He will be tried
    in a military and in a civilian court."

    In a statement released by his French lawyer, Ben Ali has slammed the trial as a "masquerade".

    Ben Ali fled to Jeddah after he was toppled by mass protests on January 14 after 23 years in power. Several members of his family and some of his closest allies were detained shortly after he was forced out.

    Tunisian authorities have been preparing several legal cases against Ben Ali, including conspiring against the state, voluntary manslaughter, drug trafficking and peddling of archaeological artifacts.

    Charges

    Officials in Tunis have said the first charges will relate to the discovery of cash, weapons and drugs in presidential palaces, including almost two kilogrammes of narcotics, thought to be cannabis, and $27m in cash.

    These finds form the basis of only two of the dozens of ongoing inquiries into the first couple, their family and the regime's former ministers and officials.

    The caretaker authorities, trying to assert their authority and gain legitimacy in the eyes of protesters who forced the transition, are attacking the vestiges of his long rule.

    Meanwhile, several European countries have frozen assets belonging to Ben Ali and his entourage.

    Yet Saudi authorities have not responded to a request by Tunis to extradite Ben Ali and his wife Leila Trabelsi.

    The Tunisian revolution was the first and so far the most successful of a string of uprisings against autocratic rulers in the Middle East and North Africa which have come to be known as the Arab Spring.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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