Tunis: Hundreds of Tunisians rallied outside the Saudi embassy on Friday demanding the extradition of former president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and staging a mock trial that sentenced the former strongman to death.
Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia after he was ousted by mass protests on January 14 after 23 years in power. Several members of his family and some of his closest allies were detained shortly after he was forced out.
Tunisia announced later that month it had asked Interpol to help arrest Ben Ali, his wife Leila Trabelsi and other members of the family who left the North African country during the uprising.
About 300 people gathered at the Saudi embassy in Tunis for a peaceful protest after Friday prayers, several holding placards demanding that Riyadh hand over Ben Ali to face justice in his home country.
To underscore the point, some of them staged a mock trial with one man acting the part of Ben Ali and another a judge, who sentenced him to death.
Demonstrators also hurled shoes at a plastic effigy of Ben Ali, painted in red to make him look like an assassin.
Some of them noted that Egyptian authorities were taking action against ousted president Hosni Mubarak over corruption allegations. "I want to see Ben Ali face justice before I die," one old man at the rally said, declining to give his name.
A few women at the demonstration carried photographs of sons they said had been killed by Ben Ali`s security forces.
The rally took place two days after state media said Tunisian authorities had prepared 18 legal cases against Ben Ali, including for voluntary manslaughter and drug trafficking.
Other charges listed by Justice Minister Lazhar Karoui Chebbi included conspiring against the state and drug use.
A total of 44 legal cases had been prepared by his ministry against Ben Ali, his family and his inner circle, he said.
Chebbi said the Justice Ministry was exploring legal ways to extradite Ben Ali from Saudi Arabia to face trial. He gave no further details.
The caretaker authorities, trying to assert their authority and gain legitimacy in the eyes of protesters who forced the transition, are attacking the vestiges of Ben Ali`s long rule.
They appointed a new government on March 07 and disbanded the state security apparatus, notorious for human rights abuses under Ben Ali.