Protesters ask Swiss to return Ben Ali funds

Demonstrators in Tunisia have called on Switzerland to hand over the funds of former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, which the Swiss government froze in January.

This content was published on March 24, 2011 - 10:12 and agencies

Around 500 people protested in front of the Swiss Embassy in Tunis on Wednesday, saying that the ex-dictator’s money should be returned to Tunisia.

The Tunisian Association for Financial Transparency, which organised the rally, gave Swiss Ambassador Pierre Combernous a petition with 1,000 signatures. 

According to the association, the ambassador promised an official response and said that the Swiss government would try to speed things up.

The Swiss diplomat also told the Tunisians how the matter was likely to proceed. Combernous stressed that the Tunisian government and its central bank would have to investigate the origin of the funds to determine whether they were in fact obtained illegally.

"The unlawful origin of the money is more than obvious," as association president Sami Remadi told the Swiss News Agency. He also criticised the international community for looking away as Ben Ali embezzled funds in Tunisia over the years.

"We are up to our necks in debt," said Remadi. "We will not tolerate being in debt any longer."

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