Tunisia torture charges fake, says ex-minister

2012-03-30 21:07

Tunis - Torture charges against former Tunisian interior minister Abdallah Kallel are fabricated, his daughter and lawyers said on Friday ahead of an expected verdict.

"He is the victim of a political conspiracy and vendetta," Leila Kallel told AFP at the trial, where several other high-ranking officials from ousted dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali's regime also appeared.

Ben Ali himself faces charges in the same case but he is being tried in absentia as he currently lives in Saudi Arabia, where he has been exiled since a popular uprising forced him to flee in January 2011.

Kallel, who had several spells as defence and interior minister between 1989 and 2001, is accused of torturing senior army officers arrested in 1991 over a suspected coup plot.

Defence lawyers argued on Friday that the accusations against Kallel were baseless and charged that the trial was politically motivated.

"There is no evidence. The case touches on what was a state security issue in 1991 and Ben Ali would not allow anyone close," lawyer Abeda Kefi said.

The Tunis military appeals court is expected to issue a verdict on Friday.

The case is known as the "Bakaret Essahel affair", named after a village 45km south of the capital Tunis where officers were accused of holding secret meetings in 1991 with a view to toppling Ben Ali.

They were handed over to the interior ministry by their superior and are alleged to have been severely tortured in cells of the state security services.

Most leading figures in Ben Ali's regime either fled or were arrested after last year's uprising and Tunisia is now governed by a coalition of former opposition parties.