Trial resumes of relatives of Tunisia's ousted leader

AFP , Wednesday 10 Aug 2011

The trial of former Tunisian president's relatives continues on charges of trying to illegally flee the country loaded with jewels and cash during the revolution

The trial resumed Wednesday of 23 relatives and allies of Tunisia's ousted president on charges of trying to illegally flee the country loaded with jewels and cash at the climax of January's revolt.

There was tight security at the Tunis court, where judge Faouzi Jbeli was expected to deliver his verdict later in a trial that has been keenly watched amid anger over abuses during Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's 23 years in power.

Most of those in the dock, who include sisters and nephews of Ben Ali's wife Leila Trabelsi, were arrested as they were going to board a plane on January 14, the day the former presidential couple fled to Saudi Arabia.

Also on trial is Ben Ali's presidential security chief, General Ali Seriati, accused of helping the group to leave, including with false passports and large amounts of Tunisian dinars, foreign currency and jewels.

The 14 men and nine women on trial deny the charges. They face six months to five years in prison and heavy fines, according to judicial sources.

Seriati faces a separate trial for more serious allegations of plotting against internal state security and provoking disorder.

A senior police colonel told reporters Monday that Seriati had ordered police to allow the group to fly out, but he had made the decision to arrest them.

They were stopped on a bus on the airport tarmac that was headed to a plane, said Colonel Samir Tarhouni from the Anti-Terrorist Brigade (BAT).

Ben Ali and his wife fled Tunisia after weeks of uprisings which a deadly crackdown failed to quell. The revolt sparked others in the Arab world, including one that toppled Egypt's Hosni Mubarak a month later.

Since his escape to Saudi Arabia, Ben Ali has been twice convicted and sentenced in his absence for possession of arms, drugs and archaeological artefacts, and for misappropriating public funds.

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