Seychelles Extends Asylum for Relatives of Tunisia Ex-Dictator

Authorities in the Seychelles said Tuesday it was allowing the son-in-law of Tunisia's deposed dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to continue his asylum on the islands for another 12 months.

Sakhr El Materi, who was convicted in absentia of corruption by a Tunisian court, appealed for asylum in the Indian Ocean archipelago in February 2013.

The Seychelles foreign ministry said Materi had been "granted an extension of an additional twelve months on his residence permit along with his wife, their three children and entourage."

It said it had been told by his lawyers that he was "still at risk of persecution and would not be granted due process of the law by the Tunisian authorities if he were forcibly returned to the Tunisian Republic."

The foreign ministry statement said Materi's lawyers had also argued that "there have been several instances of politically exposed persons being targeted by assassinations" in Tunisia.

"The Republic of Seychelles does not impose nor recognize capital punishment under her constitution and remains dissuaded that the Tunisian Republic would not seek the death penalty," the statement added.

Materi first fled to Qatar just before the overthrow of his father-in-law's regime in 2011, but the Gulf emirate agreed to expel him in September 2012. He then fled to the Seychelles, where Ben Ali and his close family used to go on holiday prior to the revolution.

Said to be the ex-dictator's favorite son-in-law and long seen as a possible successor, Materi was sentenced in absentia to 16 years in prison and fined 97 million dinars ($61 million) for corruption and property fraud.

Married to Ben Ali's eldest daughter Nesrine, the businessman was active in virtually every economic sector. His properties have either been confiscated or placed under state administration.

The north African country has also repeatedly asked Saudi Arabia to extradite Ben Ali, who took refuge there with his wife Leila Trabelsi after they fled Tunisia in January 2011.

Ben Ali has been sentenced in absentia to life in prison for presiding over the bloody protest crackdown that ignited the Arab Spring, and convicted on other charges that include incitement to murder, embezzlement and abuse of power.

Source: Agence France Presse

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