Ben Ali's lawyers boycott weapons, drugs trial
The second trial in absentia for former Tunisian president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali got off to a rocky start Monday as the ex-leader's lawyers announced they were boycotting the proceedings after being refused a postponement of the trial, DPA reported.
"We don't want to participate in this trial; we are withdrawing," Hosni Beji, one of two lawyers appointed by the court to defend Ben Ali, told reporters at the courthouse.
Beji was speaking shortly after the court refused the defence's request for a postponement. After a brief adjournment, the prosecutor began reading out the charges against Ben Ali, which relate to the discovery of weapons and cannabis at the presidential palace near Tunis shortly after Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia on January 14.
The prosecution says two kilos of cannabis resin were found at the Carthage palace near Tunis.
Ben Ali denies the charges, which have earned him a second trial in as many months.
On June 20, he and his wife, Leila Trabelsi, were tried and sentenced in absentia to 35 years imprisonment for theft of public funds.
The pair were also both fined millions of dollars.
Ben Ali is the first Arab leader ousted in the ongoing wave of pro-democracy protests across the Arab world to be tried for crimes committed in office.
His trials have failed to garner much interest in Tunisia, with many people disappointed by his absence.
Saudi Arabia has so far ignored calls by Tunisia for his extradition.
The 74-year-old politician and his entourage face scores of trials on charges over his autocratic 23-year rule, including charges of premeditated murder and torture.
The interim government running the country until October elections has said some of the cases will be heard by a military tribunal.