Trial resumes of relatives of Tunisia`s Ben Ali
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Last Updated: Wednesday, August 10, 2011, 22:14
Tunis: Prosecutors on Wednesday demanded harsh punishments for 23 relatives and allies of Tunisia's ousted president accused of trying to illegally flee the country with jewels and cash at the climax of January's revolt.

There was tight security at the Tunis court, where defence lawyers asked judge Faouzi Jbeli to dismiss the charges in a case that has been keenly watched amid anger over abuses during Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's 23 years in power.

Most of those in the dock, who include sisters and nephews of Ben Ali's wife Leila Trabelsi, were arrested as they were going to board a plane on January 14, the day the former presidential couple fled to Saudi Arabia.

The 14 men and nine women on trial deny the charges. They face six months to five years in prison and heavy fines, according to judicial sources.

Among those charged is Ben Ali's presidential security chief, General Ali Seriati, accused of helping the group to leave, including with false passports and large amounts of Tunisian dinars, foreign currency and jewels.

A senior police colonel told reporters Monday that Seriati had ordered police to allow the group to fly out, but he had made the decision to arrest them.

They were stopped on a bus on the airport tarmac that was headed to a plane, said Colonel Samir Tarhouni from the Anti-Terrorist Brigade (BAT).

"He should not only be found innocent, but raised to the ranks of the heroes of the revolution," Seriati's lawyer Abdelkrim Kahloul told the court, prompting heckles from the crowd.

Abada Kefi, another defence lawyer, said "Seriati is an innocent and honest man, who was arrested arbitrarily."

Handcuffed and visibly weakened, Seriati also faces a separate trial for more serious allegations of plotting against internal state security and provoking disorder.

His son Samir, a pilot who attended the hearing, said that Seriati was the victim of a show trial and that his father often complained privately about the abuses of the ousted regime.


First Published: Wednesday, August 10, 2011, 22:14

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