Tunisia's former leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has been sentenced to life imprisonment for his complicity in the murder of demonstrators during the revolution that toppled him in 2011, a judge confirmed on Thursday.
Ben Ali was put on trial for his indirect hand in the deaths of 43 protesters altogether and the injuring of 97 others. But although Hedi Ayari of the Tunis military court said on Thursday that Ben Ali had been given the life sentence, the judgment was passed with Ben Ali in absentia. The former leader fled to Saudi Arabia in January 2011, a month after the uprising against his regime gathered powerful momentum.
The ex-Tunisian strongman was judged along with around 40 of his former colleagues. They included General Ali Seriati, who served as Ben Ali's head of presidential security. Seriati was hit with 20 years in prison. Former interior minister Rafik Belhaj Kacem was also put on the docks. He was handed a 15 year sentence. But the case against Ahmed Friaa, another ex-interior minister, bucked the trend - his case was dismissed.
Overall, the rulings failed to satisfy the families of the victims, who reacted by insisting that the sentences had been too lenient. They also expressed their anger at the collapse of the case against Friaa.
More than 300 people died altogether in the popular rebellion in Tunisia that eventually led to former president Ben Ali's ousting. Ben Ali has now been handed several criminal sentences through three parallel trials against him. He has so far been found guilty on charges that include abuse of power, illegal possession of weapons and illegal possession of narcotics.
sej/slk (AFP, Reuters)