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French court grants bail to brother-in-law of Tunisia's Ben Ali

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Aix-en-Provence (France) (AFP)

A French court on Thursday granted bail to Belhassen Trabelsi, a brother-in-law of ousted Tunisian leader Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, who was arrested on fraud charges this month after three years on the run.

The court in Aix-en-Provence, southern France, said Trabelsi deposited 100,000 euros ($112,000) and agreed not to leave France nor meet with others charged in his case.

"I will abide by all the measures taken -- Give me the chance to prove I am not a fugitive but a normal man who keeps his word," Trabelsi told the court.

The millionaire businessman and brother of Ben Ali's wife Leila Trabelsi left Tunisia in January 2011 when the Arab Spring uprising forced the veteran leader to flee to Saudi Arabia.

Trabelsi and his family flew in a private jet to Montreal to seek Canadian political asylum, a request that was denied twice.

He disappeared in June 2016 just days before he was to be expelled from Canada.

French prosecutors have charged him with aggravated fraud and money laundering, though they have not yet revealed specifically what they are investigating.

Tunisia wants Trabelsi extradited so he can face charges of fraud as well, saying he was the target of 17 arrest warrants at home as well as 43 international warrants.

Trabelsi, whose holdings included hotels and an airline, has denied the corruption allegations against him, saying he accumulated his wealth legally.

A leaked US diplomatic cable in 2008 described Trabelsi and his family as a "quasi-mafia" involved in a series of suspect businesses and deals.

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