Former Tunisia president denies allegations before trial

Zine Al Abidine Ben AliThe lawyer representing former Tunisian president Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali on Sunday denied the numerous charges framed against his client, which range from murder and conspiracy to drug use. Ben Ali’s trial in absentia before civilian and military courts is set to begin on Monday. If convicted, Ben Ali could face a long prison sentence. The charges stem mostly from allegations that Ben Ali authorized the use of force against protesters during the Tunisian revolution, resulting in more than 200 deaths.

Justice Minister Lazhar Karoui Chebbi announced the issuance of an arrest warrant for Ben Ali and issued a request for extradition of the former leader from Saudi Arabia, where he remains in exile. The charges were framed against Ben Ali after advocacy groups Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) called for the Tunisian transitional government to investigate incidents of police violence against protesters and end police brutality.

Tunisian Constitutional Council officially announced in January that Ben Ali had permanently left the office of the presidency after he declared a state of emergency amid nationwide protests, banning public gatherings and allowing police to fire on anyone refusing to obey orders, and fled the country. The leader of the lower house of parliament, Foued Mebezza, assumed power as interim president and is expected to remain in power until elections are held, which Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi has indicated will be within the next several months.

Report by Reuben