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Tunisia begins military trial for ex-dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali

 FILE - In this Nov.7, 2007 file photo, Tunisian President  Zine EL Abidine Ben Ali and his wife Leila are seen in Rades, outside Tunis, marking the 2...

Tunisia

FILE - In this Nov.7, 2007 file photo, Tunisian President Zine EL Abidine Ben Ali and his wife Leila are seen in Rades, outside Tunis, marking the 2...

The first military tribunal for Tunisia’s deposed dictator and 22 of his top associates began Monday, according to the AP news agency.

Tunisian Former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia on Jan 14 after an uprising and has since been tried in absentia in a civilian court.

Col. Marouane Bouguerra, the military general prosecutor, says the trial before a military court in Kef, in northwestern Tunisia, was over the fatal shootings of 22 demonstrators in the towns of Thala and Kasserine during the uprising. The charges would carry a death penalty.

Defendants include two former interior ministers, the director of security and the head of special security brigades. Tunisia’s state news agency reported all have denied issuing instructions to open fire on protesters.

The trial was adjourned until Dec 12.

The uprising in Tunisia sparked the Arab Spring revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East. Tunisia just held its first free election in October.