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Tunisia charges ousted president with protester abuse

Tunisian Justice Minister Lazhar Karoui Chebbi [profile, in French] announced [press release, in Arabic] Wednesday that the government has charged former president Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] with 18 offenses ranging from murder and conspiracy to trafficking and drug use. The charges stem mostly from allegations that Ben Ali authorized the use of force against protesters during the Tunisian revolution, resulting in the deaths of more than 200 protesters. In January, Chebbi announced an arrest warrant had been issued for Ben Ali [JURIST report]. The country is currently seeking his extradition from Saudi Arabia [JURIST report]. Chebbi also announced that a joint delegation of the Ministry of Justice [official website, in Arabic] and the Ministry of the Interior will travel to International Crime Police Organization (Interpol) [official website] headquarters to seek expedited implementation of the extradition requests.

The charges come after advocacy groups Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy websites] called for the Tunisian transitional government to investigate incidents of police violence against protesters and end police brutality [JURIST reports]. In January, the Tunisian Constitutional Council officially announced that Ben Ali had permanently left the office of the presidency after he declared a state of emergency [JURIST report] amid nationwide protests, banning public gatherings and allowing police to fire on anyone refusing to obey orders, and fled the country. The leader of the lower house of parliament, Foued Mebezza, assumed power as interim president [JURIST report] and will remain in power until elections are held, which Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi [Reuters profile] has promised will be in the next few months.

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