Tunisia: Arrests, resignations and Swiss bank accounts

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Less than a week after authoritarian leader President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled Tunisia, the north African country’s new government has undergone radical changes. Following the arrest of several members of the president’s family, the government of Switzerland has announced its decision to freeze Ben Ali’s assets.

Tunisia’s democratic revolution has witnessed the arrest of 33 family members of ousted authoritarian leader President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. The arrested family members who allegedly abused power and amassed wealth where arrested as they tried to leave the country.

The Tunisian revolution has seen new promises and changes in the power structure and political field. Interim leader Fouad Mebazaa, promised an independent justice system and a “total break” with the past regime.

Also, media freedoms in the country have begun as political cartoons now appear in the newly free press.

“I guarantee that this transition government will ensure a total break with the past,” Mr Mebazaa said on Wednesday. “Together we can write a new page in the history of our country.” “We have discovered those responsible for the terror in our country. We have arrested these armed gangs.”

Protesters demanded the arrests of members of Ben Ali’s family and efforts to track down assets stashed overseas. Swiss officials estimate Tunisian government officials have put about $620 million into Swiss banks, and the anti-corruption group Transparency International France and two other associations filed a suit in Paris alleging corruption by Ben Ali and his wife.


The demand for a new Tunisia saw four opponents of Ben Ali resign from the new unity government within a day of being appointed, in protest at the number of ministers from the old regime who were still included in the unity government.

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets again in the Tunisian capital Tunis, urging allies of the ousted president to stop clinging to power. And as Tunisians continued to demonstrate to call for all links to the old regime to be severed, every single member of the new transitional government who belonged to the Mr Ben Ali’s RCD party has resigned from the party.

“All the people who came to this unity government will resign if the elections are not free and fair or the measures we have decided on are not carried out immediately,” Najib Chebbi, an opposition leader who is now a member of the new cabinet was quoted as saying.

The new government has freed all political prisoners including members of a banned Islamist movement. The reported move comes after weeks of mass protests.

The interim President went on television and promised to live up to the people’s “revolution.”

In the meantime, Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey says that Switzerland has frozen funds belonging to Mr. Ben Ali in order to prevent assets being withdrawn and also to ensure that a new Tunisian administration would be able to retrieve assets taken illegitimately.

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