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Tunisian Court Annuls Confiscation of Ousted President's Assets

FILE - In this image made from Channel 7 Tunisia TV then-president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali is seen making a speech in Tunis, 13 Jan 2011

A Tunisian court has annulled a 2011 decree confiscating the assets of ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his inner circle after an appeal from the Ben Ali family, infuriating the government.

In the months following Ben Ali's flight to Saudi Arabia after the revolution that ousted him in January 2011, Tunisia seized hundreds of businesses, properties, luxury cars and jewelry from members of Ben Ali's family.

The value of the confiscated property amounted to billions of dollars. Some assets were sold off at the end of 2012.

"The decision was issued to annul the decree confiscating the assets of 114 members and aides of the Ben Ali family and of his wife Leila Trabelsi," Minister of State Property and Land Affairs Hatem Eleuchi said on Wednesday.

"It's a shocking decision, and we hope the court will take the right decision when it comes to the appeal."

A judicial source said the court had been hearing an appeal by Trabelsi's family. He did not give details of the ruling.

State corruption was one of the key triggers of the uprising against Ben Ali, who remains in exile in Saudi Arabia, where he fled with his close family after 23 years in power.

In several trials, Tunisian courts have convicted Ben Ali and his relatives in absentia on numerous counts of corruption, theft, or illegal possession of jewelry or large amounts of cash.