Paris: Officials who cracked down
violently on protests that helped oust Tunisia`s president
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali will face justice but ministers who
kept their jobs have "clean hands", the new premier said
The ministers who served under Ben Ali and have
retained their jobs in the new government have always acted
"to preserve the national interest," Prime Minister Mohammed
Ghannouchi said on French radio Europe 1.
Ghannouchi unveiled his new government on Sunday,
aiming to prepare presidential and parliamentary elections in
six months, after Ben Ali was forced into exile following
weeks of social protests in which scores died.
"All who were involved in those massacres will answer
to justice," Ghannouchi said, adding that he never ordered
security forces to fire live rounds.
Ben Ali`s party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally
(RCD) retained the key foreign, interior, defence and finance
ministries, even after hundreds demanded in protests in Tunis
and other cities yesterday that the party be abolished.
"They kept their posts because we need them at this
time," Ghannouchi. "All of them have clean hands," he added.
"Thanks to their dedication they managed to reduce
certain people`s capacity to do harm. They manoeuvred, delayed
and bought time to preserve the national interest."
Ben Ali ruled the north African former French colony
with an iron fist for 23 years.
The new government includes three leaders of the legal
opposition as well as some representatives of civil society,
with a dissident blogger arrested under Ben Ali named as
secretary of state for youth and sports.
But it excluded banned political parties including the
Communists and the Islamist Ennahdha, although Ghannouchi said
that all political parties would now be legalised and that
strictly-controlled media would be freed.
He told Europe 1 that the leader of Ennahdha, Rached
Ghannouchi, in exile in London, cannot return to Tunisia
unless an amnesty cancels a life sentence imposed on him in
Responding to a question about claims that it was Ben
Ali`s wife Leila Trabelsi, not her husband, who really held
the reins of power towards the end of his rule, Ghannouchi
replied: "We have that impression."