Tunis: Twenty-three allies of ousted
Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his wife Leila
Trabelsi appeared before a Tunis court today for trying to
flee the country last January in illegal possession of foreign
A total of 35 people are facing charges but only the 23
Ben Ali associates arrested in January appeared before the
The 23 were arrested and found to be in possession of a
large sum in foreign currency as they tried to flee the
country on July 14, the day Ben Ali and his wife fled into
exile in Saudi Arabia following a weeks-long popular revolt.
Fourteen men, in handcuffs, and nine women, wearing
white full-length robes, entered the tiny courtroom which was
packed with journalists and lawyers.
The defendants, including Imed Trabelsi, Leila`s nephew
and one of the most reviled men from the former ruling clan,
have been held at the Aouina military base in Tunis since
"You tried to flee the country on January 11 in
possession of foreign currency and jewels," court president
Faouzi Jbelli said, before reading out the charges against
each of the accused.
Imed Trabelsi, wearing a white polo shirt, rejected the
charges, denied that he had sought to flee the country and
said the money in his possession came from "legal activities".
The prosecution said Imed, who was already sentenced to
four years in jail in June for drug possession, had 36 watches
and five kilogrammes of jewellery when he was nabbed at the
Another co-defendant, Moncef Trabelsi, was caught with
USD 2,400 (1,658 euros) and 17,500 euros.
A defence lawyer said the trial might be postponed after
the reading of the charges.
Since his escape to Saudi Arabia, Ben Ali has already
been twice convicted and sentenced in trials held in his