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Nephew of Tunisia ex-president Ben Ali sentenced to 15 years in absentia

A Tunisian court Wednesday sentenced in absentia nephew of ousted former president Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] to 15 years in prison for issuing bad checks, according to a Tunisian state media report. A trial court in the city of Beja issued the cumulative sentence [TAP report] against Sofiane Ben Ali for multiple cases in which he wrote bad checks totaling more than USD $430,000. Tunisia has been cracking down on the family of Ben Ali since the ousted president fled the country in January amidst protests ending his 23-year autocratic rule in which his family amassed substantial wealth that many Tunisians say was at their expense. On Saturday, a Tunisian court convicted the nephew of Ben Ali's wife [Reuters report], businessman Imed Trabelsi, and sentenced him to two years in jail for drug use. He had admitted to using drugs before but said he had not used since 2000. He was arrested after Ben Ali fled the country to Saudi Arabia in January.

On Monday of this week, Ben Ali and his wife were convicted in absentia and sentenced to 35 years in prison on charges of theft and unlawful possession of money and jewelry after only an hours-long trial that began that morning [JURIST reports]. The two were also charged with illegal possession of drugs and weapons, but the verdict for those charges would not be announced until June 30. Ben Ali said he was "duped" into leaving [AFP report] the capital Tunis, according to a statement released through his lawyer. He said that he was trying to get his family out of the country after assassination threats and that the plane left him in Saudi Arabia despite orders to wait for him. Ben Ali has denied the charges against him [JURIST report] more of which stem from allegations he authorized the use of force against protesters during the protests, resulting in more than 200 deaths.

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