Calgary Herald

Status of dictator’s family in doubt


Despite reports that the brother-inlaw of Tunisia’s former dictator was stripped of his Canadian residency Thursday, one legal expert says it may be a while before he is removed from the country.

Sharryn Aiken, an immigratio­n and refugee law expert at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., said the case involving Belhassen Trabelsi, whose family has been living in a swanky hotel near Montreal, is not as simple as revoking his permanent residency and kicking him out of Canada.

Media reports Thursday said Trabelsi had his Canadian residency revoked.

“This could be very drawn out,” Aiken said. “Permanent residents have more rights than what are called foreign nationals to challenge removal decisions and that’s understand­able because once someone is given resident status, there’s a sense that there’s an attachment to the country. The removal procedure (for a permanent resident) is not necessaril­y expedited, put it that way.”

Trabelsi is the brother-in-law of former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was forced to flee to Saudi Arabia on Jan. 14 after a rash of citizen unrest. Trabelsi reportedly travelled to Montreal with his wife, four children and a nanny. Their hotel has been the target of protests by Tunisian Quebecers, who voiced their concerns under the watchful eyes of the provincial police force.

Trabelsi controlled Tunisia’s banking, communicat­ions and transport sectors. He was seen as the leader of the business interests of the ruling family’s clan, and is accused of siphoning billions of dollars out of the country.

The lavish spending of Ben Ali’s in-laws are among the main roots of the citizen unrest, which, coupled with anger over high unemployme­nt and authoritar­ian rule, erupted into a popular revolution that led to Ben Ali’s exile after 23 years as president.

Aiken said there are likely numerous options for the family to exhaust before actually having to leave Canada.

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