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Tunisian top judge slams govt interference in Belaid's probe

Judicial probes continue to investigate opposition leader Chokri Belaid's assassination as actual killer remains unknown, top-level judge Kalthoum Kenou tells Ahram Online

Bassem Aly , Friday 15 Mar 2013
Mourners carry the coffin of slain opposition leader Chokri Belaid during his funeral procession towards the nearby cemetery of El-Jellaz, where he is to be buried, in the Jebel Jelloud district of Tunis, 8 February 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

Kalthoum Kenou, a judge and head of the Association of Tunisian Judges, said the investigation into the killing of Chokri Belaid is ongoing, the leftist opposition leader whose assassination last month plunged the country into a political crisis.

The statement of Kenou comes one month after the Tunisian government held radical Salafists responsible for the murder of Belaid. Ali Larayedh, ex-interior minister and newly-appointed premier, said the killer of the leftist opposition leader had been identified and four suspects arrested.

Kenou told Ahram Online on Thursday that the perpetrator of the crime is not specified until now, and consequently, no one is arrested. She slammed the interference of the "executive authority" in legal and judicial affairs.

"The public opinion should not be informed with any of the reached results as long as the investigation is still in place; this hinders the path of the probing process, and we reject it as judges," Kenou said.

However, she refused to comment on any of the current political developments in Tunisia, claiming that judges have to maintain their "neutrality."

Belaid's murder on 6 February sparked deadly street protests and strikes and exposed the widening fissures between the ruling Islamists and liberals, plunging Tunisia into its worst political crisis since the 2011 revolution against Ben Ali's regime. The crisis prompted Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali to resign.

Some family members have dismissed any involvement of Salafists in the assassination, insisting that Islamist ruling Ennahda was responsible -- a claim the Islamist party staunchly denies.

Last month, President Moncef Marzouki, himself, testified in an investigation into Belaid's murder. The opposition leader's family said the president knew of death threats against Belaid, who was a vocal critic of Ennahda. Presidential spokesman Adnen Mancer has denied the claims.

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