Tunis arrests former Ben Ali minister

AFP , Monday 11 Jul 2011

Tunisian police arrest former minister of justice Bechir Tekkari, who faces charges corruption charges

Tunisian authorities arrested a former justice minister Monday and charged him with corruption and abuse of power, a judicial source told AFP.

Bechir Tekkari, who served mainly as justice and human rights minister in the regime of ousted dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, was questioned for five hours by a Tunis judge and held on the El Aouina military base.

A detention order was issued against Tekkari, who was charged with corruption and abuse of power over trade deals and the awarding of planning contracts.

As a justice and rights minister, Tekkari had been criticised by jurists opposed to the regime.

He was given the higher education portfolio last year but his strong defence of Ben Ali's teetering regime squandered the relative credit he enjoyed among his academic peers.

Ben Ali himself faces two corruption lawsuits, in addition to the 15-year sentence he was already handed in absentia for possessing arms, drugs and archaeological artefacts.

Ben Ali and his wife Leila Trabelsi, who fled to Saudi Arabia following January's popular uprising, have also been sentenced in their absence to 35 years in prison for misappropriating public funds after large sums of cash and jewellery were discovered in a police search of their palace.

The former president, whose January ouster after 23 years in power tipped the first domino in a wave of Arab revolts, and his entourage face possible legal proceedings in no fewer than 182 other cases.

Ben Ali and his lawyers have dismissed the raft of trials as a parody of justice breaching all the standards of a fair judicial procedure.

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