Tunisia urges Canada to arrest Ben Ali`s relative

Belhassen Trabelsi, the brother of Ben Ali`s wife, is reportedly in Montreal.

Ottawa: Tunisia has asked Canadian authorities to arrest the billionaire brother-in-law of ousted Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, its embassy in Ottawa said on Thursday.

"The embassy has today officially asked Canadian authorities to arrest Belhassen Trabelsi," embassy advisor Nejemeddine Lakhal said.

Belhassen Trabelsi, the eldest brother of Ben Ali`s wife Leila Trabelsi, reportedly arrived in Montreal with his wife, children and a nanny aboard a private jet last week.

A government source said that Trabelsi and his family`s residency status in Canada have been revoked because they failed to meet the residency requirements, but they may still appeal the decision, or request asylum.

"This is a clear signal that they are not welcome in Canada, but it will be some time (several months at least) before they can be removed from the country," the source said on condition of anonymity.

Interpol had issued an alert for the arrest of Ben Ali and six members of his family on a request from Tunis, after an uprising forced the strongman ruler to flee to Saudi Arabia.

The cross-border police agency said that Interpol member states were asked to "search, locate and provisionally arrest Mr Ali and his relatives”, pending a formal extradition request from Tunisia.

But Canada`s federal police refused this week to act on the alert saying it did not constitute an arrest warrant under Canadian law.

"The Canadian law enforcement agency of jurisdiction would only become involved once an official request to investigate has been received through the Interpol network or other formal channels," Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokeswoman Lucy Shorey said.

The Tunisian embassy in Ottawa said they have not yet received a response to the latest request from Canadian authorities.

Earlier, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said during a visit to Rabat, Morocco, that members of Tunisia`s former regime ousted by popular street protests are not welcome in Canada.

"Canada will use all tools at its disposal to cooperate with the international community in dealing with members of the former regime," he said.

"They are not welcome. We do not welcome them in our country."

Ben Ali, his wife and other members of his once all-powerful family are accused of illegally acquiring assets and transferring funds abroad during his 23-year rule.

Ben Ali resigned abruptly and fled in disgrace on January 14. Thirty-three members of his extended family have already been arrested in Tunisia.

Bureau Report