Tunis: Twenty-three allies of ousted Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his wife Leila Trabelsi appeared before a Tunis court today for trying to flee the country last January in illegal possession of foreign currency.
A total of 35 people are facing charges but only the 23 Ben Ali associates arrested in January appeared before the court today.
The 23 were arrested and found to be in possession of a large sum in foreign currency as they tried to flee the country on July 14, the day Ben Ali and his wife fled into exile in Saudi Arabia following a weeks-long popular revolt.
Fourteen men, in handcuffs, and nine women, wearing white full-length robes, entered the tiny courtroom which was packed with journalists and lawyers.
The defendants, including Imed Trabelsi, Leila’s nephew and one of the most reviled men from the former ruling clan, have been held at the Aouina military base in Tunis since their arrest.
“You tried to flee the country on January 11 in possession of foreign currency and jewels,” court president Faouzi Jbelli said, before reading out the charges against each of the accused.
Imed Trabelsi, wearing a white polo shirt, rejected the charges, denied that he had sought to flee the country and said the money in his possession came from “legal activities”.
The prosecution said Imed, who was already sentenced to four years in jail in June for drug possession, had 36 watches and five kilogrammes of jewellery when he was nabbed at the airport.
Another co-defendant, Moncef Trabelsi, was caught with USD 2,400 (1,658 euros) and 17,500 euros.
A defence lawyer said the trial might be postponed after the reading of the charges.
Since his escape to Saudi Arabia, Ben Ali has already been twice convicted and sentenced in trials held in his absence. Zeenews