Middle East

Ben Ali-era strongman freed in Tunisia

(FILES) - A file picture taken on October 26, 2009 shows at the time Tunisian Interior Minister Rafik Belhaj Kacem giving a press conference in Tunis. AFP PHOTO/FETHI BELAID

TUNIS: A former interior minister under Tunisia's ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, jailed for the repression of anti-government protests, was freed from prison on Thursday, his lawyer said.

"Rafik Belhaj Kacem left prison today. He has served the whole of his sentence," Abeda Kefi told AFP, adding the ex-minister was sick and taken to a clinic.

A prison service official, asking not to be named, confirmed the release of Kacem, imprisoned since late January 2011.

The former Ben Ali regime strongman was originally sentenced to life imprisonment for "premeditated murder".

But the sentence was commuted in April to a three-year term, provoking angry protests by families of victims of the repression.

According to an official tally, more than 300 people were killed and hundreds injured in the crackdown by security forces against popular protests which led to Ben Ali's ouster.





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