Tunisia court dissolves ousted president's party

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 18, 2011 4:53 PM
Tunisia court dissolves ousted president's party

TUNIS (Reuters) - A Tunisian court ruled on Wednesday that the party of former President Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali be dissolved, triggering street celebrations as one of the last vestiges of the ousted leader's era was dismantled.

The ruling will stop the party, whose activities had already been suspended, putting forward a candidate in future elections.

A judge in the Tunis Court of First Instance Court ruled that Ben Ali's Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) be disbanded and its funds confiscated, a Reuters witness said.

Hundreds of jubilant demonstrators who had gathered at the court sang the national anthem in celebration after the ruling was read out.

Some chanted "the RCD is dead" and "Tunisia free." Demonstrators then marched peacefully toward the Kasbah square which has been the epicenter of pro-democracy rallies.

"This is a historic day. We are proud of our judiciary which is finally free," said Badi Ben Zekri, an independent lawyer who was at the court.

Ben Ali was toppled by mass protests on January 14 after 23 years of autocratic rule and fled to Saudi Arabia.

Interim authorities have struggled to restore stability in the North African country, but over the past week they have laid out a transition roadmap and attacked the symbols of Ben Ali's power one by one.

A new caretaker government of technocrats led by Beji Caid Sebsi, a respected figure with no ties to the toppled president, was unveiled on Monday after the collapse of two previous interim administrations which included members of Ben Ali's old guard.

An election has been called on July 24 to choose a national assembly that will rewrite the constitution. And Ben Ali's feared secret police services, a domestic spy agency notorious for human rights abuses, have been dismantled.

The request to disband the RCD was filed on February 21 by the interior ministry, following accusations that party members have played a role in instability since Ben Ali was toppled.

Ben Ali loyalists fought gunbattles with Tunisian soldiers shortly after the ouster and were suspected of inciting subsequent clashes in parts of the country.

Ben Ali took power in 1987 and after initial economic reforms became widely seen as a repressive ruler who raided state coffers while ignoring the plight of the poor.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Silvia Aloisi, editing by Paul Taylor)