18 January 2011

Tunisia: Officials Who Perpetrated Violence to Face Justice

The head of Tunisia's transitional government Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi said Tuesday that officials who used violence to quell protests that ousted Tunisia's president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali last week will face justice.

In an interview with France's Europe 1 radio, Ghannouchi also said that those ministers who served under Ben Ali who have kept their jobs in the new government have "clean hands" and have always acted "to preserve the national interest".

Tunisia on Monday unveiled a new government that promised unprecedented freedoms, after Ben Ali, who had ruled the country with an iron fist for 23 years, fled into exile following weeks of social protests in which scores died.

"All who were involved in those massacres will answer to justice," Ghannouchi said, adding that he never ordered security forces to fire live rounds.

Ben Ali's party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) retained the key foreign, interior, defence and finance ministries, even after hundreds protested across the country for the party to be abolished.

The new government includes three leaders of the legal opposition as well as some representatives of civil society, with a dissident blogger arrested under Ben Ali named as secretary of state for youth and sports.

Responding to a question about claims that it was Ben Ali's wife Leila Trabelsi, not her husband, who really held the reins of power towards the end of his rule, Ghannouchi replied: "We have that impression".

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