Interpol issues global alert for Ben Ali

Ben Ali`s wife reportedly took 1.5 tonnes of gold while fleeing from the country.

Updated: Jan 27, 2011, 09:37 AM IST

Paris/Tunis: The international police organisation Interpol said it has issued a global alert for the arrest of Tunisia`s ousted President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and his six relatives.

"As stated by Tunisian authorities in media reports today, Ben Ali and some of his family members are wanted in Tunisia on charges of alleged property theft and the illegal transfer of foreign currency," the France-based agency said in a statement on Wednesday.

The global alert, known as "an Interpol diffusion", was sent out to all 188 member countries by the agency`s National Central Bureau (NCB) in Tunis, Xinhua reported.

As per the global arrest warrant, it will be the duty of the member countries to aid Tunis NCB to "search, locate and provisionally arrest Ben Ali and his relatives" with a view of their extradition, the statement said.

Pressed by months of violent riot and protesting demonstration, Ben Ali fled Tunisia January 14. His wife Leila Trabelsi, also in the wanted list, reportedly took 1.5 tonnes of gold when she and her family fled to Dubai, but some media reports said her whereabouts was still unconfirmed.

According to DPA, Tunisia`s new transitional government wants Ben Ali, his wife and other relatives on charges of property theft and the illegal transfer of foreign currency.

Ben Ali`s family and relatives, particularly the Trabelsi clan, are accused of having used their political connections to amass massive wealth.

The move to have them arrested comes as Tunisians await the announcement, which had been set for Wednesday but now looked as if it could be delayed until Thursday, of a reshuffle of their transitional government.

Government ministers have been locked in discussions about what changes should be made to the week-old unity government to win it more support.

Thousands of protesters have been demonstrating daily to demand ministers linked to the Ben Ali regime be dismissed.

The protests continued on Wednesday in the capital Tunis and in the second-largest city of Sfax.

Police in Tunis fired tear gas at a group of around 1,000 protesters, who have been staging a sit-in outside Ghannouchi`s offices since Sunday.

Witnesses in Sfax, where a general strike was called on Wednesday, said tens of thousands of people marched to demand the new government be scrapped.

The DPA report said, a similar strike has been called for Thursday in Sidi Bouzid, the central town where the Jasmine Revolution began Dec 15, with the self-immolation of a vegetable vendor in protest over official harassment.

Meanwhile, the justice ministry also revealed Wednesday that around 11,000 prisoners had taken advantage of the chaos that reigned in the first days after Ben Ali`s departure to break out of jail.

A fraction of the escapees - 1,532 prisoners - have since handed themselves in, Chebbi said, adding authorities were investigating the breakouts.