Tunisia court slaps Ben Ali with 2nd life term
By Reda al-Tamtam, Tuesday, May 13, 2014
TUNIS – A military court on Tuesday slapped ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali with a second life sentence in absentia for ordering security forces to fire on anti-regime protesters during Tunisia's 2011 uprising, state radio has reported.
In the early hours of Tuesday, the court delivered its verdict against Ben Ali, blaming him for the death and injury of protesters in the southeastern town of Al-Hamma when security forces attempted to put down demonstrations – the first "Arab Spring" uprising – that broke out against Ben Ali's 14-year autocratic rule.
In the same trial, five of eight accused former senior security officials received prison sentences in absentia ranging from ten to 15 years. The court dropped all charges against the three remaining defendants.
The jail sentences, meanwhile, remain subject to appeal.
The court also ordered all those convicted to pay compensation ranging from 5000 to 80,000 Tunisian dinars (roughly between $5000 and $50,000) to the relatives of three slain protesters and a number of people injured during the clashes in Al-Hamma.
In April, a Tunisian military appeal court upheld a life sentence issued earlier in absentia against Ben Ali, who fled to Saudi Arabia – where he remains – following his ouster in January 2011.
At the same time, however, a court reduced jail terms given to a number of high-profile Ben Ali-era officials, including former presidential guard chief Ali al-Seryati –suspected of ordering the killing of over 300 protesters – while acquitting a number of others.
The April verdicts triggered uproar in Tunisia, with a number of MPs suspending their membership in the elected National Constituent assembly (NCA) and demanding that the cases be tried in civilian courts.
In February, the Tunisian authorities announced that all those suspected of complicity in the death of protesters during the uprising would be tried by military courts.
A government-appointed committee formed to document the uprising's death toll said in late February that 321 Tunisians had been killed and 3727 others injured during the protests.
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