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Ben Ali's nephew appeals sentence; Tunisian appeals court doubles it

By the CNN Wire Staff
Imed Trabelsi, center, as seen on April 20 at the palace of justice in Tunis on arrival in court on drug charges.
Imed Trabelsi, center, as seen on April 20 at the palace of justice in Tunis on arrival in court on drug charges.
  • Trabelsi was sentenced in May to a two-year term
  • He is still to be tried as part of cases filed against Ben Ali and his relatives
  • The former Tunisian president has been sentenced to 36 years in prison
  • The ousted leader and his wife are living in Saudi Arabia and were tried in absentia
  • Tunisia

(CNN) -- The nephew of deposed Tunisian President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali found his sentence for a drug possession conviction doubled when he appealed it, state media said.

Imed Trabelsi was sentenced in May to two years in prison and a 2,000-dinar (about $1,440) fine for possession and consumption of drugs, Tunisia's official news agency said.

He appealed the ruling. On Saturday, the Tunis Court of Appeal upheld the decision and added two more years to the sentence: four years in prison and a 3,000-dinar ($2,160) fine, the TAP news agency said.

The report did not say why the court imposed the additional time.

Trabelsi is still to be tried as part of corruption cases filed against 114 Ben Ali relatives after the former president's ouster earlier this year, the news agency said.

Last week, a Tunisian court sentenced Ben Ali and his wife to 35 years in prison in absentia on corruption charges. The court also imposed a fine of 91 million dinars ($65 million).

Ben Ali and his wife, Leila Trabelsi, have been living in exile in Saudi Arabia since the January revolt that ended his 23-year rule and touched off a wave of uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East.

The pair faced a total of 93 counts stemming from the discovery of cash, weapons, jewelry and drugs in the presidential palace after the revolt.

Of those, 35 counts against Ben Ali and his inner circle -- including murder and torture -- have been referred to a Tunisian military court, the state news agency reported.

Ben Ali had ruled the North African country since 1987. Protests began to erupt in December after the self-immolation of a fruit vendor whose cart had been seized by police.

His fiery suicide touched off a firestorm among Tunisians fed up with corruption, high unemployment and escalating food prices. Ben Ali fled the country in mid-January after a revolt that left at least 300 people dead and 700 wounded, a top U.N. human rights expert said last month.

The former strongman's political party has since been dissolved by a court order, and parliamentary elections have been scheduled for July.

Earlier this month, Ben Ali said he has been unfairly portrayed and discredited by political opponents seeking to make a break with their country's past.

In a written statement released by one of his attorneys, Jean-Yves Le Borgne, Ben Ali said it was time to break his silence because he was "tired of being made a scapegoat" and is a victim of "injustice."

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