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Tunisia seeks Interpol’s help to arrest Ben Ali and family

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2011-01-27

Tunisia announced Wednesday that it is seeking Interpol’s help to arrest ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, his wife and several of his relatives. Meanwhile, protesters continued to clash with police in the streets of Tunis.

Tunisia announced Wednesday that it has asked Interpol for assistance to arrest ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, as protesters continued to face off against security forces in Tunis.

Ben Ali, his wife Leila Trabelsi, and eight other family members, face accusations of illegal acquisition of assets and the transfer of funds into foreign accounts during Ben Ali’s 23 years in power, Justice Minister Lazhar Karoui Chebbi said in a press conference.

Tunisian authorities announced that 33 members of Ben Ali’s family had already been arrested in the country.

The justice minister also said the head of Ben Ali's presidential security force and five others were being investigated for instigating violence following his ouster.

The justice ministry’s announcement was intended “to reassure the population as to the government’s determination to break from the past”, FRANCE 24’s special envoy in Tunis, Pauline Simonet explained.

But there are obstacles standing in the way of the arrests. FRANCE 24’s international politics specialist, Gauthier Rybinski, pointed to Saudi Arabia as one of those obstacles. “It is difficult to imagine Saudi Arabia, which just welcomed the president and his family, all of a sudden arresting them”, Rybinski noted, adding that the arrest of dictators is rare.

Protesters keep up pressure

The news came just before a cabinet shake-up was due to be announced Wednesday, as thousands marched through Tunisia’s second biggest city, Sfax, in another anti-government demonstration timed to coincide with a general strike called by the main UGTT trade union.

Meanwhile, riot police fired tear gas at protesters who have swarmed central Tunis - near Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi’s office - over the past four days. The protesters are demanding that politicians with ties to Ben Ali’s regime, including Ghannouchi himself, be dismissed from the new coalition government. According to France 24’s Simonet, the protesters had been hurling bottles and stones at the police.

The protests in Tunisia have drawn thousands ready to defy a curfew and ban on public gatherings in order to express their anger at their government. Many of those marching come from poor areas of central Tunisia that have been aflame with protest since mid-December.

Authorities have said that 78 people were killed in the recent protests, while the justice ministry announced that some 11,000 prisoners had escaped during the turmoil.


Date created : 2011-01-26


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