Ben Ali’s security chief walks free after sentence cut

Updated 08 June 2014

Ben Ali’s security chief walks free after sentence cut

TUNIS: The head of presidential security under ousted Tunisian strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali walked free on Saturday after a controversial appeal ruling cut his jail sentence from 20 years to three.
“Ali Seriati left Mornaguia prison (outside Tunis) at 6 a.m. (0500 GMT) and returned to his home,” his brother Youssef told AFP.
Seriati had been in jail ever since Ben Ali fled into exile in January 2011 following the first of that year’s Arab Spring uprisings.
He was convicted of murder in July 2012 over the deaths of dozens of protesters in greater Tunis during the uprising.
But he saw that conviction overturned on appeal last month and replaced with the lesser charge of failing to come to the assistance of people in danger, and his jail sentence reduced accordingly.
Two other top Ben Ali officials — former Interior Minister Rafik Belhaj Kacem and former special brigades commander Jalel Boudriga — also saw their convictions and sentences reduced by the same military tribunal in rulings that sparked widespread public anger.
Center-left member of Parliament Mouldi Riahi called the judgments a “major shock,” and fellow MPs called for retrials before civilian courts. The former interior minister walked free on May 8 after completing his reduced three-year prison term.
More than 300 people were killed and hundreds injured in the security forces crackdown on popular protests which led to Ben Ali’s ouster.
Seriati was accused of providing the veteran strongman and his family with false passports to flee the country, but was acquitted on that charge in August 2011.
He himself told AFP shortly after his arrest earlier that year that he had pressed Ben Ali to leave to spare Tunisia a bloodbath.


Rescue mission aids starving lions in neglected Sudan zoo

Updated 8 min 52 sec ago

Rescue mission aids starving lions in neglected Sudan zoo

KHARTOUM: Four lions in a rundown zoo in the capital of Sudan, wasting away from hunger, are undergoing lifesaving medical treatment from an international animal rescue organization.

The plight of the rail-thin lions in Al-Qurashi Park in Khartoum set off an outpouring of sympathy and donations from around the world. At least five lions, both male and female, once inhabited the zoo. One lioness died of starvation last week.

On Tuesday, veterinarians and wildlife experts from Vienna-based animal welfare group Four Paws International conducted medical checks at the park, which has fallen on hard times for lack of money and attention.

Amir Khalil, head of the Four Paws emergency mission, said he was “shocked” by the poor state of the lions, their cramped quarters and the park’s general disarray.

“I don’t understand why no one was given the task of feeding them or how authorities could just overlook this,” he said, describing two of the remaining four as in critical condition, “dehydrated ... a third of their normal weight.”

Four Paws faces a daunting task and its two-day trip has been dogged by challenges from the start. 

When the team arrived late on Monday, customs agents confiscated most of their luggage and essential medicine, citing a lack of prior approval. The group says it’s operating with just a fraction of its equipment, and scrambling to find local alternatives.

Although the group typically carries out rescue missions, it has no immediate plan to transport the animals in Al-Qurashi to better conditions abroad.