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Tunisia issues international arrest warrant for former president

Tunisia's Justice Minister Lazhar Karoui Chebbi announced Wednesday that the country has issued an international arrest warrant for ousted president Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali [BBC profile]. Ben Ali, his wife and other family members face allegations that they illegally transferred money [AFP report] out of the country, possessed unlicensed weapons [CNN report] and incited armed violence. Chebbi said some of the former president's family members have already been arrested, though others have traveled to Canada [CBC report] where some of them have permanent resident status. Canada has said it is willing to consider freezing any assets [Toronto Star report] held by Ben Ali or his family within the country. France is also considering freezing the family's assets, and the Paris prosecutor's office has opened an investigation [RFI report] into Ben Ali's assets after three NGO's filed a lawsuit in France accusing Ben Ali of corruption and money laundering.

Last week, UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] announced that UN experts would be sent to Tunisia [JURIST report] to assess the human rights situation and meet with the country's interim leaders. Earlier in the week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official website] urged government leaders in Tunisia to initiate dialogue between all sides in an attempt to restore rule of law [JURIST report]. The Tunisia Constitutional Council officially announced earlier this month that Ben Ali had permanently left the office of the presidency after he declared a state of emergency [JURIST reports] and left the country. The council, the country's highest legal authority on constitutional issues, declared that the leader of the lower house of parliament, Foued Mebezza, will assume power [AFP report] until elections are held in two months.

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