Middle East

Tunisia seeks arrest in Turkey of ex-regime figure

Ousted Tunisian president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali. (AFP)

TUNIS: Tunisia has asked Turkey to arrest and extradite Saida Agrebi, a key figure from the ousted regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the foreign ministry said on Thursday.

"Tunisia has asked, through its ambassador in Ankara Mehrez Ben Rhouma, for the arrest and extradition of Saida Agrebi on the basis of a summons sent by Interpol Tunis to Interpol Ankara on Wednesday," it said in a statement sent to AFP.

It said the authorities in Tunis have asked the Turkish government to "take the necessary legal measures to implement an international arrest warrant" issued in Tunisia in mid-August 2011.

Agrebi, whose presence in Turkey was disclosed by Tunisian media, was attending an international meeting in the Turkish capital on Wednesday and Thursday in her capacity as vice president of the World Family Organisation.

Tunisian media published photographs of her being presented with an award and with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the gathering.

On her Facebook page, Agrebi scoffed at the Tunisian authorities, saying: "Recognised by the whole world! Excluded from her own country!"

Agrebi was a key figure in the regime of Ben Ali, who fled Tunisia for Saudi Arabia on January 14, 2011, and a close aide of his wife Leila Trabelsi.

The US-educated Agrebi fled Tunisia for Europe on July 30 that year.

She had already tried to leave, wheelchair-bound and wearing dark glasses, after Ben Ali's departure, but police stopped her before she could board a flight for Nantes in western France.

In mid-July 2011, the charity which she headed, the Tunisian Organisation of Mothers, sued her for corruption. However authorities only imposed a travel ban four days after she left the country.

Critics say Agrebi spearheaded propaganda campaigns for the regime under cover of her organisation.

Ben Ali and his wife have both been tried in absentia for crimes including misappropriating public funds, and sentenced to hefty jail terms.

Riyadh has turned a deaf ear to requests from Tunis for the ousted despot's extradition.






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