Last updated: 8 August, 2011

Tunisian protesters demand break with Ben Ali regime

HHndreds of people demonstrated in central Tunis Monday to demand that members of the toppled Ben Ali regime be stopped from re-entering the political scene or escaping justice for alleged crimes.

The protest, the latest in a series in Tunisia since Zine el Abidine Ben Ali was forced out in January by a popular uprising, came days after courts freed two ministers in the former system who were facing corruption charges.

“End it with the dictatorship,” they chanted, demanding that figures from Ben Ali’s now dissolved Rally for Constitutional Democracy (RCD) be kept out of the new, more democratic system.

“Not freedom nor a return for the group of RCDists,” they shouted, saying they were protecting the ideals of the uprising that ended Ben Ali’s 23 years in power, also kicking off revolts across the Arab world.

“We want a break with the Ben Ali regime,” said demonstrator Najiba Bakhtri from the Tunisian General Labour Union.

“Elements from the former system are still present. They have integrated themselves into new parties, under other names, but they are still active,” she said.

Student Khouloud Adouli added: “It is not normal that in Egypt a dictator president could be judged while in Tunisia, former ministers of Ben Ali are free.”

An uprising in Egypt drove out president Hosni Mubarak, who went on trial last week for alleged corruption and over the killing of hundreds of demonstrators during the revolt.

Ben Ali and his wife Leila Trabelsi, who have taken refuge in Saudi Arabia, have been tried and convicted in absentia for charges including misappropriating public funds and possession of weapons and drugs.

On Thursday last week courts freed former minister Abdelrahim Zouari, who had been facing trial for alleged abuse of power and illegally financing the RCD.

On Wednesday another minister, Bechir Tekkari, was also freed after being detained since July 11 awaiting trial for alleged corruption.

Another regime figure, Saida Agrebi, a key ally of Trabelsi, has meanwhile been able to leave for France although she faces charges.

Former tourism minister and advisor to Ben Ali, Slim Tlatli, was at the weekend prevented from leaving for Luxembourg.