Former Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali has denied all charges against him as his trial is set to begin on 20 June.
Ben Ali fled Tunisia on 14 January after weeks of protests against his regime. He is currently in Jeddah, on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast with his wife and two children.
Ben Ali has “strongly denied the accusations fielded against him”, says a source close to the former leader. Ben Ali “considers what is happening to be a shameful picture of a victors’ justice”, the source says.
A criminal court in Tunis will hear the first of an estimated 93 cases against the former president and members of his inner circle tomorrow.
The first charges relate to the discovery of $27m in cash, weapons and drugs in a presidential palace near Sidi Bou Said, near Tunis.
Investigators are now trying to establish an inventory of money and items collected by Ben Ali and his wife. Combined, these are estimated to be worth about a quarter of Tunisia’s gross domestic product (GDP).
If Ben Ali is convicted on these allegations, he will be sentenced for between five and 20 years’ imprisonment. However, he also faces charges of murder, drug trafficking, voluntary manslaughter, abuse of power, money laundering and trafficking of archaeological artefacts (MEED 14:4:11). If Ben Ali is found guilty of murder or torture, he will face the death penalty.
Tunis is currently trying to extradite Ben Ali from Saudi Arabia. However, the kingdom has not yet replied to extradition requests.