TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia's toppled dictator and his wife are facing charges of inciting violence in connection with a bloody crackdown following his January ouster, the official TAP news agency reported Wednesday.
The report cited a Justice Ministry statement as saying Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and former first lady Leila Trabelsi are wanted on charges including "plotting against the interior security of the state" and "inciting disorder, murder or pillaging on Tunisian soil.
The latest charges come on top of 18 others already filed against Ben Ali, who fled along with much of his family to Saudi Arabia on Jan. 14 amid a popular uprising.
The charges stem from an incident in the central town of Ouardanin the day after the ouster, when four youths were killed as a crowd tried to prevent Ben Ali's nephew, Kais Ben Ali, from fleeing the country. The victims' families allege the former strongman ordered the security forces to open fire on the youths.
A United Nations mission has said at least 219 people were killed in the unrest that rocked the North African nation for weeks. A women's group has also alleged that security forces raped, tortured and robbed people during the upheaval.
The Ben Ali and Trabelsi extended families were notoriously corrupt — with business interests in nearly every sector of the Tunisian economy — and the target of much public outrage after the regime fell.
Tunisia has asked Saudi Arabia to extradite Ben Ali, but the request has gone unanswered. Tunisian authorities also asked the Saudis for details on the ousted president's health after rumors surfaced he'd been ill or possibly died.
The country's tourism-dependent economy has struggled in the wake of the upheaval. The revolution in Egypt and continued fighting in neighboring Libya — which has occasionally spilled over onto Tunisian soil — have only made matters worse.
World Bank president Robert Zoellick on Wednesday announced the bank had granted the North African nation $500 million in "urgent budgetary aid." Speaking at a news conference Wednesday that capped a two-day visit to Tunis, he said the African Development Bank has agreed to provide marching funds.
The money is aimed at supporting "reforms to improve governance, transparency, laws on freedom of association, and on efforts to create jobs and promote poor regions," Zoellick said. He added that he considered the country's transitional period a "really historical moment for Tunisia and for the entire region."
Tunisia's revolution — the first of many revolts that have spread throughout the Arab world this year — began in late December in a poor region of the country.
(Photo: AP Photo/Tunisian Presidency, File)