Tunisian military tribunal seeks death penalty for Ben Ali

AFP, Wednesday 23 May 2012

A Tunisian military prosecutor requests a death penalty for ouster President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali who was tried in absentia as he sought exile in Saudi Arabia since last January

protestors burn a photo of Ben Ali during a demonstration in Tunis, Tunisia against holdovers from Ben Ali's regime in the interim government, Monday, Jan. 24, 2011. (Photo: AP)

A Tunisian military prosecutor demanded the death penalty Wednesday for ex-president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who is being tried in absentia over killings during last year's popular uprising, an official said.

The prosecutor at the military tribunal also sought the "toughest penalties possible" for Ben Ali's 22 co-defendants, ex-senior officials who are being prosecuted for the deaths of at least 22 people during the January 2011 pro-democracy protests in the towns of Thala and Kasserine.

It is the first time the death penalty has been sought against the ousted longtime dictator, although he has already been sentenced to more than 66 years in prison on a range of other charges including drug trafficking and embezzlement.

Ben Ali was absent for those court cases, having fled Tunisia on January 14 to seek exile in Saudi Arabia.

The protest against his autocratic rule triggered what would become the Arab Spring uprisings that swept other strongmen from power across the Arab world.

Among those on trial in the case are former interior ministers Rafik Belhaj Kacem and Ahmed Friaa.

During the trial, none of the defendants has admitted giving the order to open fire on protesters and no one has named names.

Defence arguments are scheduled to get under way Thursday.

Short link: