Tunisia seeks Ben Ali's extradition

Officials formally request extradition of former president from Saudi Arabia, where he fled last month after uprising.

    Tunisia now has an interim government which is preparing the country for national elections [AFP]

    Tunisia is seeking the extradition of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the country's deposed president, from Saudi Arabia to face charges stemming from the violent crackdown on protesters last month, Tunisia's foreign ministry has said.

    The country wants to try Ben Ali over his role in the deaths of protesters killed by security forces during the uprising, which brought an end to his decades-long rule, the foreign ministry said in a statement carried by state media on Sunday.

    "The government acted following a new batch of charges against the ousted president regarding his involvement in several serious crimes aimed at perpetrating and inciting voluntary homicide and sowing discord between the citizens of the same country by pushing them to kill one another," the ministry said.

    The request followed a protest by as many as 4,000 Tunisians in front of the Kasbah in Tunis on Sunday afternoon, demanding an end to the transitionanal government led by Mohamed Ghannouchi. 

    Ben Ali fled Tunisia to Jeddah on January 14, after weeks of protests ended his 23-year-old rule.

    The interim government, which is preparing the country for national elections, has asked Saudi Arabia to provide "as soon as possible" information on Ben Ali's health, the state news agency TAP reported.

    The 74-year-old former leader is reportedly very ill in hospital after suffering a stroke. Rumours are rife that the former leader might be dead.

    High expectations

    Emna Ben Jemaa, a Tunisian blogger who went to Sunday's protest, told Al Jazeera that she believed expectations of the transitional government were unrealistically high.

    "Tunisians want a lot of things, in a short amount of time," Ben Jemaa said. "My hope is that they accept to wait but Tunisians are not patient."

    She added that, while many of the protesters have legitimate demands, there are groups who appear to be exploiting them to undermine the government.

    Ben Jemaa also expressed concern that the killing of a Roman Catholic priest, who was found dead in the northeastern city of Manouba on Friday, was another attempt to create political tensions.

    Marek Rybinski, a Polish priest who had been a member of the Salesian community, was found with his throat slit and multiple stab wounds.

    In a statement, the interior ministry said: "Given the manner of his murder [we believe] that a group of fascist terrorists are behind the crime."

    "Why [was the priest murdered]? Who does this? We don't know," Ben Jemaa said. "I don't think that Islamists are behind this because Islamists are trying to build trust."

    The opposition al-Nahda movement, led by Rachid Ghannouchi, "strongly condemned" the murder and called for an investigation into the circumstances of Rybinski's death.

    The movement, which advocates political Islam, has also distanced itself from protesters calling themselves "Islamists" who demonstrated against brothels in Tunis on Friday.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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