Harsher penalties for US embassy attackers in Tunis

AP News
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Posted: Feb 18, 2015 7:09 AM

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — A Tunisian appeals court handed down harsher penalties for the 20 men convicted of attacking the U.S. embassy in 2012, their defense attorney said Wednesday.

Attorney Anwar Ouled Ali said that the court gave two-year sentences to six of the convicted attackers and three-year sentences to the 14 tried in absentia. In the original trial in 2013 they had all been given suspended sentences.

Hundreds stormed the U.S. embassy compound in Tunis on Sept. 14, 2012 in response to a U.S. film deemed insulting to Islam, destroying cars in the parking lot while staffers hid inside the buildings.

Tunisian security forces were absent until the president sent in his personal guard, resulting in the death of four of attackers.

The release of the few people actually arrested for the attacks last year had prompted a rare rebuke from the embassy, which said the sentences were not appropriate to the "severity of the damage."

Ouled Ali, the defense attorney, maintained that those convicted didn't participate in the attack but were arrested in the area afterward.

The defendants were convicted of "attacking police" and participating in an illegal rally.

The attack embarrassed the Tunisian government and strained relations with the United States. It was a deciding factor in ending its policy of tolerance toward hard-line Islamists.

The attack came three days after the deadly assault on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi that resulted in the death of the American ambassador.