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France Releases Ben Ali's Brother-in-Law, Waits Extraditing Him to Tunisia

France Releases Ben Ali's Brother-in-Law, Waits Extraditing Him to Tunisia

Monday, 13 May, 2019 - 11:45
Belhassen Trabelsi, pictured in 2010 (AFP)
Marseille- Asharq Al-Awsat
France has released Belhassen Trabelsi, brother-in-law of ousted Tunisian president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, on bail while it mulls an extradition request from Tunisia, sources said Sunday.

Lawyers Xavier Nogueras and Marcel Ceccaldi said they had obtained Trabelsi’s conditional release “owing to procedural problems,” confirming news initially announced by the Tunisian justice ministry, according to AFP.

It was the second time that an appeals court in Aix-en-Provence, southeastern France, had ordered his release from jail in Marseille.

The first time was on March 28, but before Trabelsi walked free, the Aix-en-Provence prosecutor arrested him again based on a February 2017 warrant issued by a Tunisian magistrate.

Tunisia's extradition request refers to a series of convictions in absentia and three 10-year sentences handed down between February 2017 and June 2018 for financial crimes.

Trabelsi, 56, who faced charges of organized money laundering and has paid 100,000 euros in bail, must remain in France and report regularly to a local police station, they added.

It’s worth noting that French judges didn’t give in to the political and media pressures and applied the law by releasing Trabelsi, the lawyers noted.

The next phase will be reviewing the request to extradite Trabelsi from Tunisia, which is due to take place in June, but the defense team is currently "not ruling out" a request to postpone it.

Tunisia's Justice Ministry said in a statement that its country’s authorities “confirm their full confidence in the French law's independence and impartiality and its fair law application.”

Trabelsi disappeared in June 2016 just days before he was to be expelled from Canada, and was arrested in southern France in March 2019.

The millionaire businessman and brother of Ben Ali's wife Leila Trabelsi left Tunisia in January 2011 when the Arab Spring uprising forced the veteran leader to flee.

A Tunisian prosecutor has accused Trabelsi of “pillaging Tunisian businesses” alongside Ben Ali.

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