Ousted Tunisian leader sentenced to life

July 19, 2012 at 3:14 PM
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TUNIS, Tunisia, July 19 (UPI) -- A Tunisian military court Thursday sentenced ousted President Zine el-Abadine Ben Ali to a second life term in absentia for the deaths of protesters last year.

Ben Ali left the North African country with family members in January 2011 as the Tunisian uprising toppled his 23-year reign leading to the Arab Spring protests in Egypt and Libya.

The Military Court of Tunis convicted Ben Ali of issuing orders to troops to fire live ammunition to disperse demonstrators, killing 338 people before he fled to Saudi Arabia, euronews reported. In June, he was sentenced to life in absentia by a military court in the northwestern region of the country. Tunisia is seeking his extradition.

Around 40 defendants went before the military court Thursday, including former top-ranking members of Ben Ali's security forces, presidential security chief Ali Seriati and former Ministers of the Interior Rafik Haj Kassem and Ahmed Friaa, Tunisialive said.

Seriati was given a 20-year jail sentence and Haj Kassem received 15 years in addition to a 15-year sentence he received in June.

Thirty-eight former officials received prison terms ranging from five to 20 years, and charges were dropped against three defendants, euronews said.

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