Son-in-law of Tunisia's Ben Ali leaves Seychelles: Ministry

AFP , Saturday 15 Dec 2012

Seychelles' government denied that Sakhr El Materi, the son in law of ousted Tunisian president, was arrested by its police saying that he had left the country

Seychelles on Saturday said the son-in-law of Tunisia's deposed dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has left the country, and denied statements by Tunisian authorities that he had been arrested there.

"Sakhr El Materi was briefly questioned at Seychelles international airport upon his arrival.... El Materi was not arrested as was reported by some international media," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

"He has subsequently left the Seychelles," it said, without giving any details on where he went.

Materi, who was convicted in absentia of corruption by a Tunisian court, fled to Qatar just before the overthrow of his father-in-law's regime in last year's uprising, but the Gulf emirate agreed to expel him in September.

On Friday, an adviser to the Tunisian justice minister said that Materi was arrested when he tried to enter the Seychelles with an expired diplomatic passport and that he was interrogated by police on the Indian Ocean archipelago.

Tunisian Justice Minister Noureddine Bhiri then said that Tunis would do everything to get Materi extradited.

"Sakhr El Materi went to the Seychelles after leaving Qatar. The Seychelles authorities opened an inquiry, because he was the subject of an international arrest warrant and because his passport had expired," Bhiri said.

"The Tunisian authorities will do everything they can to get Sakhr El Materi extradited," he said.

Ben Ali and his close family used to go on holiday to the Seychelles in secret prior to the revolution.

Said to be the ex-dictator's favourite son-in-law and long seen as a possible successor, Materi was sentenced in absentia last year to 16 years in prison and fined 97 million dinars ($61 million) for corruption and property fraud.

Married to Ben Ali's eldest daughter, Nesrine, the 31-year-old businessman owned Princess Holding and was active in virtually every economic sector.

His properties have either been confiscated or placed under state administration.

Tunis has called on countries hosting fugitive members of the Ben Ali family to bring them to trial and return their properties to Tunisia.

The north African country has repeatedly asked Saudi Arabia, where Ben Ali took refuge with his wife Leila Trabelsi after they fled Tunisia on January 14, 2011, to extradite him.

Ben Ali has been sentenced in absentia to life in prison for presiding over the bloody protest crackdown that ignited the Arab Spring, and convicted on other charges that include incitement to murder, embezzlement and abuse of power.

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