Trial of Ben Ali relatives, allies resumes

2011-08-02 16:39

Tunis - The trial resumed on Tuesday of 23 relatives and allies of ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on charges including trying to flee Tunisia in illegal possession of foreign currency and jewellery.

The accused include sisters and nephews of Ben Ali's wife, Leila Trabelsi, arrested at Tunis airport on January 14, the day the ex-president fled to Saudi Arabia following popular uprisings that spread across the region.

The trial opened last Tuesday when the next hearing was postponed for a week.

Among those in the dock is Ben Ali's former head of presidential security, General Ali Seriati, who is being tried for complicity and passport falsification.

He was also arrested on January 14, at a military airport, just after Ben Ali left. There are suspicions he pushed the president to leave in the hope of taking control of the country.

Seriati faces a separate trial for more serious allegations of plotting against internal state security and provoking disorder.

Lawyers of the 23 accused - 14 men and nine women - are expected to entre pleas on Tuesday. They deny the charges and face six months to five years in prison and heavy fines, according to judicial sources.

Since his escape to Saudi Arabia, Ben Ali has been twice convicted and sentenced in trials held in his absence including for possession of arms, drugs and archaeological artefacts, and for misappropriating public funds.