Tunisia sentences Ben Ali to another 20 years in jail
Published Wednesday, June 13, 2012
A Tunisian military court on Wednesday sentenced ousted dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to 20 years in jail in absentia for inciting violence during a police attempt to smuggle his nephew out of the country during last year's revolt.
Ben Ali, who fled to Saudi Arabia as protests engulfed Tunisia in January 2011, has already been sentenced to decades in jail – also in absentia – on charges ranging from corruption to torture and faces more charges.
Last month, a Tunisian military prosecutor demanded that the death penalty be imposed on the former strongman for his role in the deaths of protesters in the towns where the Arab Spring began last year.
There is, however, little indication that Riyadh would be willing to extradite Ben Ali.
Saudi Arabia, one of the most repressive dictatorships in the world, is leading efforts to prevent democracy from spreading in the region, fearing the threat it poses to its own rule.
No senior officials have so far been convicted for the deaths of more than 300 people in last year's uprising, angering the families of the dead and raising pressure on the Tunisian government to ensure that justice is done.
Tunisia's government has faced persistent criticism over its failure to persuade Saudi Arabia to hand over Ben Ali and his wife Leila Trabelsi, a former hairdresser whose lavish lifestyle and clique of wealthy relatives came to be seen by many Tunisians as a symbol of the corrupt era.
Meanwhile, Tunisia's interior and defence ministries declared a night time curfew in the capital and seven other suburbs and cities following riots by Salafi Islamists and other protesters angered by an art exhibition they say insults Muslims.
The curfew began at 9 pm. on Tuesday and ended at 5am on Wednesday and was enforced throughout the capital, the suburbs of Ben Arouss, Ariana and Manouba and the cities of Sousse, Monastir, Jendouba and Ben Guerdane.
Interior Ministry Ali Larayedh told parliament earlier on Tuesday he expected the violence to continue in the coming days.
Post-Ben Ali Tunisia has seen Salafi Islamists seek to impose stricter local laws to mirror Islamic Sharia law, but they have faced stiff resistance in a country renowned for its secular and liberal leanings.