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Unfrozen Swiss court rejects Tunisia appeal against Ben Ali assets decision

Zine El Abidine Ben Ali

Former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, pictured in 2009.

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

The Federal Criminal Court has thrown out an appeal by Tunisian authorities to freeze the funds of three brothers they say are linked to assets owned by former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

In the latest instalment of the drama around funds belonging to Ben Ali – ousted after the Arab spring uprisings of 2011 – the court in Bellinzone has definitively closed a case against Marouane, Mohamed Ali, and Ismaïl Mabrouk.

The Swiss accounts of the brothers were originally frozen in 2011 in connection with wider efforts to sort out the assets belonging to Ben Ali, who died last month in Saudi Arabia.

And while the accounts of Mohamed Ali and Ismaïl were unfrozen in 2014, proceedings against Maroaune – a former son-in-law of Ben Ali; he has since divorced – remained the subject of investigation by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General until 2017, when it shelved the case, citing insufficient evidence.

Tuesday’s decision by the Federal Court rejects Tunisia’s appeal against this 2017 decision, and reiterates the lack of evidence against Marouane, who the court said was primarily targeted because of his marriage to Ben Ali’s daughter – a marriage that has since ended.

Furthermore, the judges deemed, the investigation into Mabrouk in Tunisia was not thorough, and neither was the information given to Swiss authorities. For example, an official statement was provided in Arabic, but not in any of the Swiss languages, and for this reason was rejected as evidence.

The court said that Mabrouk now has full access to his assets and is not subject to any travel bans. He has also been removed from the European Union’s black list.

The funds belonging directly to Ben Ali and his family remain frozen in Switzerland.

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