Tunisia president wants graft suspects travel ban lifted

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President Moncef Marzouki on Saturday said a travel ban on Tunisians suspected of corruption must be lifted to help shore up the ailing economy and bolster national reconciliation after the 2011 uprising.

“We must strive to remove immediately these restrictions in order to set up a mechanism of reconciliation,” Marzouki said of a ban that affects an estimated 0.4 percent of the country's businessmen.

“Total transparency is needed to achieve (national) reconciliation in order to revive the economy and establish justice,” he said.

Marzouki was speaking at a conference organized by the Tunisian employers union UTICA on ways of reviving the economy amid ongoing political instability and social unrest.

UTICA has repeatedly demanded that the authorities publish a list of businessmen accused of corruption, amid press reports that between 400 and 2,000 people are suspected of wrongdoing.

Ousted dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, family members and business associates, as well as former officials of the regime that was toppled in 2011, have been accused of widespread corruption.

Ben Ali's clan, and his wife's family in particular, had a stranglehold on business in Tunisia, and are accused of having run a mafia-style state.

In an interview earlier this year, Marzouki said that between $15 billion and $50 billion were diverted during Ben Ali's 23-year rule.

Plagued by political instability, social unrest and a lack of foreign investment, the north African country fell into recession after the January 2011 uprising toppled Ben Ali and ignited the Arab Spring.

The ruling Islamist party Ennahda has claimed credit for an economic recovery since its rise to power in December that year.

But growth remains sluggish, and widespread poverty and high youth unemployment, key factors behind the revolution, persist.