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Tunisia: New Ben Ali trial begins

Last Updated: Thursday, July 28, 2011 - 23:37

Tunis: Tunisia`s exiled former leader
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and two allies went on trial in
absentia today on corruption and property fraud charges, the
latest in a series of cases against the ex-president.

Ben Ali, who fled to Saudi Arabia last January after a
popular revolt against his 23-year rule, has already been
sentenced in his absence to a total of more than 50 years in
two separate trials.

Today, the court was tackling two separate cases.

One involves the fraudulent acquisition of a plot of
land in an upscale Tunis district by Ben Ali`s son-in-law,
Sakhr Al-Materi, and his wife Nesrine following the "personal
intervention" of the former president.

In the second case, Ben Ali and al-Materi, who took
refuge in Qatar, are accused of having acquired a plot in the
same neighbourhood initially intended to be a park but
subsequently reclassified as building land, considerably
boosting its value.

"It`s a loss for the state and public property. We
demand the heaviest sentence," said a representative for the
prosecution. "These crimes are very serious, considering the
post which the main defendant, Ben Ali, held."

According to the indictment, the plots were acquired
for 23 dinars (11.5 euros) a square metre, well below their
real value of 350 dinars and then resold for 1,500 dinars a
square metre.

"The evidence shows that the ex-president committed
violations and abuses of power in the two transactions," the
prosecution said.

On July 4, a Tunis court sentenced Ben Ali to 15 and a
half years in jail for possession of arms, drugs and
archaeological artefacts and fined him 54,000 euros.

And in June, Ben Ali and his wife Leila Trabelsi were
sentenced to 35 years in prison and fined 45 million euros for
misappropriating public funds after police found large sums of
cash and jewellery in their palace.

Ben Ali denounced his first conviction as a "parody of
justice" and a "political liquidation" in a statement issued
last month.

But he and his entourage face possible legal
proceedings in around 180 other cases.


First Published: Thursday, July 28, 2011 - 23:37

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