Tunisia trial opens in murder of leftwing opponent

Tunisian lawyer Chokri Belaid attends a press conference at the lawyers' Bar in Tunis. (File Photo: AP)

The trial opened Tuesday of 24 people accused of links to the 2013 assassination of prominent Tunisian opposition figure Chokri Belaid, against the backdrop of last week's militant beach massacre.

Almost 200 lawyers, as well as police in plainclothes and journalists, attended the hearing, as dozens of people protested outside, chanting: "Tunisia is free! Terrorism out!"

To avoid the crowds, the session was held in a hall on the first floor of the Palace of Justice in Tunis, rather than in a main courtroom.

"We will find out today whether or not justice will be served. There will be signs on whether there is a will to serve justice," Belaid's widow Basma Khalfaoui told AFP.

Belaid, who was gunned down outside his home on February 6, 2013, was a staunch leftwing critic of the then ruling Ennahda party, a moderate Islamist movement.

The suspects, one of them being tried in absentia, face several charges, including "incitement to commit terrorist crimes" and "membership of groups linked to a terrorist organisation", one of their lawyers said.

They are also suspected of providing information and funds to people known for "terrorist activity", as well as weapons and explosives to others with links to "terrorists".

Belaid's murder triggered deadly protests and a political crisis that brought down Islamist prime minister Hamadi Jebali.

Five months later, Tunisia plunged into further crisis with the murder of another opposition figure, Mohamed Brahmi.

Militants claimed both killings and the authorities announced in February 2014 that Belaid's assassin had been killed in a police raid on "terrorist" suspects.

But Belaid's family has repeatedly demanded the full truth behind the murder.

The trial opened four days after 38 people, mostly British holidaymakers, were killed as a militant gunman went on a shooting rampage on a Tunisian beach, in the second attack in three months on tourists in Tunisia claimed by the Islamic State group.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:48 - GMT 06:48