Trials open in Tunisia over deaths of protesters
Two trials opened in Tunisia yesterday over the killings of protesters during the 2011 revolution, part of a process aimed at redressing rights abuses under the toppled regime. Judges will rule on the guilt of deposed president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, his former interior minister Rafik Belhaj Kacem and high ranking security officials. The trials are the first cases under the mandate of Tunisia’s Truth and Dignity Commission to centre on protesters killed during the revolution that sparked the Arab Spring uprisings. The body was set up in 2014 to bring justice for those wronged by Ben Ali’s regime. They are being held in the central Tunisian cities of Kasserine and Sidi Bouzid — the cradle of the demonstration movement sparked by the December 2010 self-immolation of a fruit seller in protest at police harassment. None of the accused were present in court in Sidi Bouzid, much to the disappointment of victims’ relatives, an AFP journalist said. Ben Ali fled into exile in Saudi Arabia after the uprising, while the whereabouts of ex-interior minister Kacem are unknown. Tension escalated and the hearing in Sidi Bouzid started two hours late — “a very bad sign”, one relative said. “Loyal to the martyrs!”, indignant audience members shouted at the entrance to the judges’ room. The accused face charges of “intentional homicide with premeditation” and “attempted homicide with premeditation”.