Last updated: 5 September, 2011

Tunisia court postpones trials of Ben Ali aides

A Tunis court on Monday postponed until October 10 two trials of associates of Tunisia’s ousted president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, concerning trafficking in visas and in archeological treasures.

In the first trial the main defendant is the nephew of Ben Ali’s wife Leila Trabelsi, Imed Trabelsi, who has already been sentenced to four years in prison for possession of drugs and two years for trying to flee and for the illegal possession of foreign currency.

In the latest case, he is accused with the former minister of religious affairs, Boubaker El Akhzouri, and a businessman who ran a company sending pilgrims to Mecca, Mahmoud Bellalouna, of running a visa trafficking scam.

The legal action was opened when the state accused Imed Trabelsi of having in 2010 taken 1,000 visas for the pilgrimage to Mecca that had been given to the ministry of religious affairs and using them for his own travel agency.

Each visa was sold for 2,000 dinars (about 1,000 euros / 1,440 dollars), lawyer Wissam Essaidi told AFP.

The three defendants were not in court at Monday’s first hearing.

The second trial involves Sakher El-Materi, a relative of the Ben Ali couple who is accused of trafficking in archaeological treasures. El-Matari, who has taken refuge in Qatar, has already been sentenced in his absence to four years in prison for illegal possession of foreign currency.

The former mayor of Tunis, Mohamed Beji Ben Mami, is also implicated in the smuggling affair, along with an employee of the ministry of culture, Farouk Hamza.