Canada to try to extradite Tunisian leader`s kin

Belhassen Trabelsi, exiled brother-in-law of ousted dictator, is in Montreal.

Toronto: Canada said on Friday it will try to comply with the new Tunisian government`s request to extradite the brother-in-law of ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Belhassen Trabelsi, a billionaire Tunisian businessman and brother of former first lady Leila Trabelsi, reportedly arrived in Canada last week with his family.

"He is not welcome. We will seek to find, obviously within the context of existing legislation, the fastest possible methods which will permit us to comply with the Tunisian government`s request," said Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon, speaking in French to reporters in Val-d`Or, Quebec.

Canada is also freezing the assets of Trabelsi, who is in Montreal with his family. Cannon said every effort will be made to track down accounts belonging to Trabelsi.

Cannon said authorities are in constant contact with Trabelsi`s lawyer in Montreal. Under Canadian law, it could take years to extradite Trabelsi if he applies for asylum and appeals the extradition request.

Tunisia`s government issued an international arrest warrant on Wednesday for the president, accusing him of taking money out of the North African nation illegally. It also is seeking six of Ben Ali`s relatives but their names haven`t been made public.

Nejmeddine Lakhal, a spokesman at Tunisia`s embassy in Ottawa, said the arrest request was sent to Canada`s foreign affairs department. He said Trabelsi`s diplomatic passport has also been cancelled.

Huge street protests forced Ben Ali to flee to Saudi Arabia on January 14 after 23 years in power.

Belhassen Trabelsi reportedly used his Canadian permanent resident status to enter the country last week. It was not clear where he went first after fleeing Tunisia. France had said some Ben Ali relatives went there, but were "not welcome" to stay.

Leila Trabelsi, a one-time hairdresser, rose to become Tunisia`s most influential woman. Leila and her 10 siblings are said to have operated like a mafia, extorting money from shop owners, demanding a stake in businesses large and small, and divvying up plum concessions among themselves.

As her oldest brother, Belhassen, was known as the clan chieftain and is said to have ruled over the family`s many mafia-style rackets. The Trabelsi and Ben Ali families were said to have a stake in Tunisian banks and airlines, car dealerships, Internet providers, radio and television stations, industry and big retailers.

Bureau Report