Tunisia: court drops charges in case that triggered regional protests

A Tunisian court on April 19 dropped charges against a police officer who incited protests in several Arab countries when she allegedly slapped a local fruit vendor. Police woman Fedia Hamdi was accused of slapping Mohamed Bouazizi in December in a dispute during which Bouazizi’s cart was confiscated after he was allegedly found without a permit. As a result of the encounter, Bouazizi set himself on fire in front of the governor’s office on Dec. 17 and died three weeks later. Pro-democracy protesters generally discontented with unemployment, corruption and repression staged several demonstrations following Bouazizi’s death. The mother of the late vendor withdrew her complaint against Hamdi, and the Sidi Bouzid Court of First Instance subsequently dismissed the case.

From Jurist, April 19. Used with permission.

See our last posts on Tunisia, North Africa and the new regional revolutions.

  1. Tunisia: Ben Ali gets 15 years in absentia
    A Tunisian court on July 4 sentenced ousted president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in his absence to 15 years in prison for possession of arms, drugs and archaeological artifacts. In his second trial since fleeing to Saudi Arabia following a popular uprising in January, Ben Ali was also given a fine of 54,000 euros ($78,500). The former strongman and his wife Leila Trabelsi had already been sentenced in absentia to 35 years in prison a month earlier for misappropriating public funds after large sums of cash and jewellery were discovered in a police search of their palace. In the new trial, Ben Ali alone was accused of harbouring drugs and weapons at his palace in the Carthage neighbourhood north of Tunis. He also faces a drug trafficking charge. (Middle East Online, July 7)

  2. Tunisia: Ben Ali relatives sentenced
    Relatives of former Tunisian president Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali were sentenced on Aug. 12, while one notable ally, his security chief Ali al-Seriati, was acquitted on charges of forgery. All were sentenced on varying charges related to aiding Ben Ali and his wife Leila’s escape from the nation in January. Seriati still awaits hearings on charges that he “sowed strife” after the recent uprisings across the Middle East. Prison terms for the convicted ranged between four months and six years. All plan to appeal.

    Last month, Ben Ali and his wife were sentenced to an additional 15 years in prison by the Tunisian Court of Criminal Appeal after being found guilty in absentia on charges of illegal possession of drugs, weapons and stolen archaeological artifacts. That followed the previous month’s verdict by the Tunisian Court of First Instance against the pair on charges of theft and unlawful possession of money and jewelry.

    Ben Ali fled Tunisia to Saudi Arabia in January during protests against his 23-year autocratic rule in which his family amassed substantial wealth that many Tunisians say was at their expense. But Ben Ali said that he was “duped” into leaving 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 which stem mostly from allegations that he authorized the use of force against protesters during the Tunisian revolution, resulting in more than 200 deaths. Justice Minister Lazhar Karoui Chebbi announced the issuance of an arrest warrant for Ben Ali in January, though the country has not received a response to its request to extradite the former leader from Saudi Arabia, where he remains in exile. Chebbi announced that Ben Ali had been charged with 18 offenses in April. (Jurist, Aug. 12)