Tunisia Calls on Interpol to Arrest Ousted President Ben Ali

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The Guardian/UK

Tunisia Calls on Interpol to Arrest Ousted President Ben Ali

Former leader is wanted to stand trial for the possession of expropriated property and transferring foreign currency abroad

James Meikle

Tunisian protesters stand in front of the prime minister's building during a demonstration in Tunis, January 21, 2011. (REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra)

Tunisian authorities have asked for international arrest warrants to be issued for ousted president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and members of his family following his flight abroad this month.

The country's justice minister, Lazhar Karoui Chebbi, who also revealed that 11,000 prisoners, about a third of the prison population, had escaped in the recent unrest, said his country had asked Interpol to detain the former leader, who is now in Saudi Arabia. He and others would face trial for possession of expropriated property and for transferring foreign currency abroad.

Chebbi named seven members of Ben Ali's family in Tunisian custody but said Imed Trabelsi, a nephew of Ben Ali's wife, Leila Trabelsi, and Sakher al-Materi, Ben Ali's son-in-law, had fled abroad.

He said the name of Leila's brother Belhassan Trabelsi had also been given to Interpol.

Switzerland has already frozen assets linked to the family, who are thought to have siphoned off millions during their years in power. The EU is looking to follow suit when foreign ministers meet next week.

Chebbi said six members of Ben Ali's presidential guard in custody, including Ali Seriati, would be tried for "conspiring against state security and inciting people against each other with weapons".

No legal action has been taken so far against Ben Ali's interior minister, Rafik Belhaj Kacem, who led efforts to crush the uprising when it broke out last month. Ben Ali fired him a few days before he fled.

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