Trials open in Tunisia over deaths of Arab Spring protesters

Families of victims mourn their relatives in the Tunisian city of Kasserine. AFP
Updated 14 July 2018
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Trials open in Tunisia over deaths of Arab Spring protesters

  • None of the accused were present in court in Sidi Bouzid, much to the disappointment of victims’ relatives
  • The body was set up in 2014 to bring justice for those wronged by Ben Ali’s regime

SIDI BOUZID: Two trials opened in Tunisia on Friday over the killings of protesters during the 2011 revolution, part of a process aimed at redressing rights abuses under the toppled regime.
Judges will rule on the guilt of deposed President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, his former Interior Minister Rafik BelHajj Kacem and high-ranking security officials.
The trials are the first cases under the mandate of Tunisia’s Truth and Dignity Commission to center on protesters killed during the revolution that sparked the Arab Spring uprisings.
The body was set up in 2014 to bring justice for those wronged by Ben Ali’s regime.
They are being held in the central Tunisian cities of Kasserine and Sidi Bouzid — the cradle of the demonstration movement sparked by the December 2010 self-immolation of a fruit seller in protest against police harassment.
None of the accused were present in court in Sidi Bouzid, much to the disappointment of victims’ relatives, an AFP journalist said.
Tension escalated and the hearing in Sidi Bouzid started two hours late — “a very bad sign,” one relative said.
“Loyal to the martyrs!,” indignant audience members shouted at the entrance to the judges’ room.
The accused face charges of “intentional homicide with premeditation” and “attempted homicide with premeditation.”
The case in Sidi Bouzid centers on the death of a computer engineer and a student killed by live rounds in protests on Dec. 24, 2010 in Menzel Bouzayane, another central Tunisian city.
Computer engineer Chawki Hidri was 43 years old when he died, eight days after being shot in the spine and shoulder. Student Mohammed Amari was 25 years old and died after being shot twice in the chest.
The trial in Kasserine centers on the deaths of 20 other protesters, whose relatives waved photos of them in the court room.

Official figures show 338 Tunisians were killed and 2,174 wounded in the popular uprising that forced Ben Ali from power and ushered in the Arab Spring.
There have been civil and military trials for those killed during the 2010-11 protests, but relatives and lawyers have described the sentences as too lenient.
They hope the trials under the Truth and Dignity Commission will bring greater closure.
“I hope that the transitional justice will do us justice” and “reveal the killers of our children,” said Mbarka, whose son Mohammed was killed during the protests.
Other trials under the commission have so far centered on finding justice for opponents who died after being tortured during Ben Ali’s dictatorship.


Kushner: Trump wants fair deal for Palestinians

Updated 25 June 2019
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Kushner: Trump wants fair deal for Palestinians

  • Fighting new economic plan ‘a strategic mistake,’ White House adviser says
  • Says plan would double Palestinian GDP in 10 years, create over a million jobs

MANAMA, Bahrain: Donald Trump wants a fair deal for Palestinians, the US president’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner said on the eve of the launch in Bahrain of the White House’s $50 billion “peace for prosperity” plan.

The Palestinians are missing an opportunity to participate in the Middle East peace process by boycotting the Bahrain conference, Kushner said. “This is a strong package that has been put together. Fighting it instead of embracing it, I think, is a strategic mistake.”

The plan proposes a global investment fund for Palestine and neighboring Arab states, and a $5 billion transport corridor between the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinian leaders have rejected it, but Kushner said their criticism was “more emotional than specific.”

“Nobody has refuted our core premise that this would do a lot to stimulate the economy,” he said. “The Palestinian people have been trapped in a situation for a long time and we wanted to show them, and their leadership, that there is a pathway forward that could be quite exciting.”

The Palestinian people have been trapped in a situation for a long time and we wanted to show them, and their leadership, that there is a pathway forward that could be quite exciting.

Jared Kushner, US president’s adviser

Kushner said Trump decisions such as recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv were evidence that the president kept his promises.

“The Palestinians might not have liked his Jerusalem decision, but he made a promise and he did it,” he said. What the president wanted now was “to give the Palestinian people a fair solution.”

Kushner said the plan would double the GDP in 10 years, create over a million jobs, reduce poverty by 50 percent and bring unemployment to below 10 percent.

“We believe this doable,” he said. “It’s hard, but if there’s a peace agreement and we set up the right structure, we think it could really lead to improving people’s lives in a substantial way.

“I think there is a lot of enthusiasm in the West Bank and Gaza to see if we can find a political solution so that this can be implemented.”

The political element of the White House plan has been delayed by uncertainty in Israel, where there will be elections this year after an earlier vote failed to produce a stable coalition, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may also face a criminal trial for corruption.