Ben Ali to request postponement

2011-06-20 12:17

Tunis - The defence team of ex-president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, whose trial in absentia starts on Monday in Tunis, intends to request a postponement to prepare his defence, one of his lawyers said.

"We will ask for a postponement of the hearing to get in contact with our client and prepare the ways to defend him," said court-appointed lawyer Hosni Beja on Sunday.

Former Tunisian president Ben Ali, the first leader toppled in a wave of Arab uprisings, faces charges related to theft, drugs and weapons.

His Beirut-based lawyer Akram Azoury said earlier he "strongly denies all charges they are trying to press as he never possessed the sums of money they claimed to have found in his office".

The former strongman fled to Saudi Arabia on January 14 in the face of a popular uprising against his 23-year rule and is to be tried in absentia by a criminal court over some 93 cases against him and his entourage.

He could face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty of the charges.

The trial is only the beginning of a long legal process that may see top members of Ben Ali's regime in the dock over allegations including murder, torture, money laundering and trafficking of archaeological artefacts.

Of the 93 charges Ben Ali and his inner circle now face, 35 will be referred to the military court, justice ministry spokesperson Kadhem Zine El Abidine has said.