Tunis: The trial of ousted Tunisian leader Zine el Abidine Ben Ali is slated to begin from June 20, interim Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi has said.

"I am announcing it for the first time, the trial will start on the 20th of June," Essebsi said, adding that Ben Ali and his associates were facing more than 90 charges.

He also said Saudi authorities had not responded to Tunisian requests to hand over the former president.

Ben Ali fled Tunisia in January following a revolt against his 23-year rule and is thought to be in Saudi Arabia. Family members say he suffered a stroke in February and he has made no public appearances.

Tunisia's new authorities are preparing to try him and his wife Leila Trabelsi on drugs, guns and graft charges in absentia.

Tunisian authorities have said the first charges will relate to the discovery of cash, weapons and drugs in presidential palaces, including almost two kilogrammes of narcotics, thought to be cannabis, and USD 27 million in cash.

These finds form the basis of only two of the dozens of ongoing inquiries into the first couple, their family and the regime's former ministers and officials.

Authorities have said they are also looking into cases of murder, abuse of power, trafficking of archaeological artifacts and money laundering.

In a statement released by his French lawyer, Ben Ali has slammed the trial as a "masquerade".

Tunisia's interim administration has demanded the former president's extradition from Saudi Arabia along with his wife, and several European countries have frozen assets belonging to Ben Ali and his entourage.

The Tunisian revolution was the first and so far the most successful of a string of uprisings against autocratic rulers in the Middle East and north Africa which have come to be known as the Arab Spring.



(Agencies)