Tunisian ex-president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s lawyer on Thursday slammed a military prosecutor for seeking death penalty for Ben Ali, saying the demand was “politically motivated.”
“Demanding death for Ben Ali in the killing protesters is politically motivated and paves the way for rulings that contradict international standards,” Beirut-based lawyer Akram Azoury said in a statement.
“The judiciary should prevent such attempts. All officials questioned have denied Ben Ali gave orders to use live ammunition. The judiciary should consider communication records between the palace as well as the ministries of interior and defense.”
Aside from seeking the death penalty for Ben Ali, who is being tried in absentia over killings during last year’s popular uprising, the prosecutor at the military tribunal also sought on Wednesday the “toughest penalties possible” for his 22 co-defendants, a court official told AFP.
They are ex-senior officials being prosecuted for the deaths of at least 22 people during the January 2011 pro-democracy protests in the towns of Thala and Kasserine. Many of the victims died when security forces fired live rounds.
“If Ben Ali is indicted, such a ruling would not be judicially important or internationally effective,” Azoury said.
It is the first time the death penalty has been sought against the ousted longtime dictator, although he has already been sentenced to more than 66 years in prison on a range of other charges including drug trafficking and embezzlement.
Ben Ali was absent for those court cases, having fled Tunisia on Jan. 14 to seek exile in Saudi Arabia.