All involved in Tunisia repression will face justice: PM
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Last Updated: Tuesday, January 18, 2011, 23:06
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 Tuesday.

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 1991.

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."


First Published: Tuesday, January 18, 2011, 23:06

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