Ben Ali trial set to begin

2011-06-17 16:02

Tunis - Tunisia on Monday begins trying in absentia ex-president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, five months after he fled to Saudi Arabia, amid calls for him to be extradited to take the stand.

A criminal court in the capital will begin hearing the first of about 93 cases brought against the authoritarian ruler, ousted on January 14 in a popular uprising that inspired others still rocking the Arab world.

The first charges against Ben Ali and his wife Leila Trabelsi arise from the discovery of millions of dollars and jewellery in a palace at Sidi Bou Said, near Tunis.

Ben Ali also faces charges related to drugs and weapons found in a palace in Carthage.

Conviction on these allegations is punishable by five to 20 years in prison, but other allegations of murder and torture - to be dealt with later by a military court - carry the death penalty.

Saudi Arabia has responded to requests from the interim Tunisian government for the 74-year-old's extradition.

Many Tunisians are pleased the alleged crimes of the once-powerful couple will be examined in court but others say their trial in absentia is merely intended to appease demands for justice and change months after the uprising.

"This trial is nonsense, it is just for show. It is meant to calm the mood and not to uncover the truth," said Hamma Hammami, head of the Tunisian Communist Worker's Party.

"The authorities should have started by judging the symbols of the dictatorship and corruption, which are Ben Ali's advisors and ministers, while waiting for international pressure to extradite him," he told AFP.

"There are other cases more pressing than to judge Ben Ali in absentia: the sanitisation of the media, the judicial system and the security apparatus."

Low profile

But Slah Jourchi, vice president of the Human Rights League and spokesperson of an inquiry into corruption and abuse of power under the previous regime, said the trial held "psychological and political weight".

Tunisians are "thirsty to know the truth and to see the ex-president made accountable to the people", he said.

Although the former strongman may succeed in staying out of jail, the trial could at least show Ben Ali "that the page has not been turned and he will be prosecuted in Tunisia and even at the international level", Jourchi said.

Two lawyers have been appointed to defend Ben Ali and his wife in the trials to begin on Monday relating to cash, weapons and drugs.

Of the 93 charges being prepared against him and his circle, 35 will be referred to a military court, said justice ministry spokesperson  Kadhem Zine el Abidine (no relation to the ousted president).

They mainly concern allegations of murder, torture, money laundering and trafficking of archaeological artefacts.

Tunisian authorities have not said who else in Ben Ali's entourage would come before the military courts.

Ben Ali has kept a low profile since his escape to Saudi Arabia ended his 23 years in power, with a relative saying in February that he was in a coma after a stroke.

He however surfaced recently to denounce, through a French lawyer, the proceedings against him as a "masquerade".

Read more on:    zine el abidine ben ali  |  tunisia  |  north africa

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


Zuma: Pray for peaceful polls

President Jacob Zuma has asked members of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God to pray for peaceful elections on 7 May.


Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
  • Friday Grabouw - 11:32 AM
    Road name: N2 Eastbound
    DELAYS between Sir Lowrys Pass and Grabouw
  • Friday Cape Town - 10:14 AM
    Road name: M3 Inbound
    EVENT - left lane closed between Rhodes Avenue and UCT
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now! - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Samsung Galaxy Tab P7500 10.1" Tablet With WiFi & 3G

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 gives you a better experience for...

From R4999.00

I'm shopping for:


Self-indulgence may be strong today. You may want to enjoy yourself to the fullest and share it with those that make you more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.