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Tunisia court upholds conviction of nephew of ex-president Ben Ali

A Tunisian appeals court on Saturday upheld the conviction of Imed Trabelsi, businessman and nephew of ousted former president Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. The 14th Criminal Chamber of the Tunis Court of Appeal sentenced Trabelsi to four years in prison [TAP report] and ordered him to pay a 3,000-dinar fine after being convicted on charges of possession and consumption of drugs. Trabelsi, who was arrested after Ben Ali fled the country to Saudi Arabia in January, appealed his conviction in May when he was initially sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay a 2,000-dinar fine by the Court of First Instance of Tunis. A spokesman for the Justice Ministry said he will eventually stand trial [AP report] on other charges including corruption, fraud and illegal trafficking of archaeological items.

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. Last week, a Tunisian court sentenced [JURIST report] in absentia Sofiane Ben Ali, another nephew of Ben Ali, to 15 years in prison for issuing bad checks totaling more than USD $430,000. That same 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 just hours after the trial 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], most 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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