US: Trial of Tunisian ex-leader internal matter, but step forward
The trial and sentencing of Tunisia's ousted president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was an internal matter, but represented a step forward for the Middle Eastern nation, a US official said Tuesday, dpa reported.
"The fact that there was a trial, the fact that there was due process, the fact that the Tunisians are making progress from where they were just six months ago in terms of rule of law, is something that we are gratified to see," US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
She called the trial "a big step forward" and an "accountable legal process."
Ben Ali and his wife, Leila Trabelsi, were sentenced Monday to 35 years in prison for theft of public funds, after a lightning trial in absentia. The ousted president, along with his wife, is in Saudi Arabia, where he is being treated for prostrate cancer. Saudi Arabia ignored Tunisia's request for extradition.
The trial in Tunis, which focussed on the discovery of millions of dollars in cash and jewellery at one of the couple's palaces after they fled the country on January 14, was over within hours.
A second case against Ben Ali, on charges of possessing weapons, drugs and archaeological objects, was postponed until June 30 to allow the five lawyers appointed by the state to represent him to prepare his defence.