Tunisia Issues Warrant for Ex-President's Arrest
Prisoners escape amidst rioting
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 26, 2011 9:01 AM CST
A protestor holds a burned picture of former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali during a demonstration in Tunis, Tuesday, Jan. 25. 2011.   (Christophe Ena)
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(Newser) – Tunisia has issued an international arrest warrant for ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, accusing him of taking money out of the North African nation illegally. Ben Ali, who fled to Saudi Arabia after being driven from power this month by violent protests, is also being charged with illegally acquiring real estate and other assets abroad, Justice Minister Lazhar Karoui Chebbi said today. Tunisia is also seeking the arrest of Ben Ali's wife, Leila, who reportedly left the country with millions in gold bullion.

Chebbi spoke to reporters as Tunisian police fired tear gas at hundreds of protesters who have been pressuring the interim government to get rid of old-guard ministers who served under Ben Ali. He revealed that widespread rioting has allowed 11,029 prisoners—about a third of the country's prison population—to escape amidst the chaos. Of those, 1,523 prisoners have returned to jail, and another 74 were killed in fires that broke out in the prisons.