Ben Ali jail sentences upheld in Tunis appeals court

A Tunis court on Thursday confirmed jail sentences handed down in August to relatives of ousted Tunisian leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and his wife Leila Trabelsi.

The relatives of the deposed dictator and of his feared wife—who fled to Saudi Arabia—had appealed after being sentenced to jail terms ranging from four months to six years this summer.

Leila Trabelsi will serve six years and Ben Ali’s favourite son-in-law Sakhr as-Materi will serve four.

Imed Trabelsi, the nephew of the ex-first lady, had his two-year sentence confirmed. His cousin Moez Trabelsi will serve six years.

A lawyer for the relatives called the appeal verdict “disappointing”.

“The judgments are too severe for customs-related offences,” Hosni Beji said, adding that two months would be the normal term served.

“Unfortunately Tunisian justice is still not free from its yoke and is acting under pressure from the street,” he said.

Thirty-two members of the Ben Ali clan were arrested on January 14 as they desperately attempted to fly out of Tunisia after weeks of popular pressure forced Ben Ali to flee.

They faced a raft of charges linked to their botched escape such as illegal possession of foreign cash and trafficking in jewels.

The court confirmed the acquittal of Ali Seriati, Ben’s Ali security chief, but he will stay in prison awaiting other charges.

There are scores of judicial proceedings under way against Ben Ali himself, his extended family and ministers.—AFP