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Tunisia ex-president sentenced in absentia to life for killing protesters

A Tunisian military court on Thursday sentenced the country's former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] in absentia to life in prison for his involvement in the killing of 43 protesters during last year's Tunisian revolution which resulted in the death of more than 200 protesters. The court found Ben Ali guilty [AFP report] of complicity to murder protesters during the unrest which forced him out of office. Along with Ben Ali, the court sentenced approximately 40 others who were alleged to be involved in the killings. Among them were General Ali Seriati, ex-head of presidential security, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison, former interior minister Rafik Belhaj Kacem who faced 15-year sentence and Ahmed Friaa, another former interior minister, whose charges were dismissed. The court acquitted 21 defendants, and Ben Ali was the only one receiving a life sentence while the others were sentenced to between five to 20 years. Following the sentences, families of the victims condemned the court's decision stating that the sentences were too lenient and that all the defendants should have received life prison terms.

Ben Ali was already sentenced to life in prison for his involvement in the killing of 22 protesters the same day he was sentenced to 20 years [JURIST reports] on charges of inciting violence and murder in connection with the death of four protesters. The two sentences were added to previous sentences amounting to 55 years in prison including 15 years for drug and gun charges and 35 years [JURIST reports] on charges of theft and unlawful possession of money and jewelry. The court decided to sentence the former president rather than punishing to death as the prosecution initially sought. In April, the country's military appeals court upheld [JURIST report] the convictions against the former president for torturing military officers over an alleged coup plot in 1991. In January a military court started its trial against Ben Ali focusing on who ordered snipers to kill 41 protesters during last year's revolution. Ben Ali had denied [JURIST report] all charges brought against him.

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