TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) – A Tunisian appeals court has upheld a death sentence and rejected another against two suspected Islamic militants convicted in connection with deadly clashes with security officials.
Overall, convictions were held up against 30 people in the marathon appeals hearing nearly uninterrupted over two days, following a lower court verdict in December.
The court on Wednesday confirmed a death sentence against Saber Ragoubi, 24, and reduced a death sentence against Imed Ben Ameur, 42, in the original trial to life in prison.
They were convicted on charges including incitement to killing and “provoking disorder and death” as part of a terrorist plot.
Other sentences ranged from life behind bars to three years in prison on lesser charges, including possessing explosives.
The defendants could appeal again to the Court of Cassation, Tunisia’s highest court, because of the severity of the sentences.
The defendants, 29 Tunisians and a Mauritanian, allegedly belonged to a group called the Soldiers of Assan Ibn Al Fourat, the name of an Arab war chief, that was involved in clashes with security forces last December and in January. They were arrested following an attack on the group in Soliman, some 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of the capital. A total of 14 people, 12 group members, a soldier and a police officer, died in confrontation. Such clashes are relatively rare in Tunisia, widely considered a haven of stability in North Africa.
The group is thought to have links with Al-Qaeda in Islamic North Africa, an Algerian insurgent group that declared an alliance with the global terror network earlier this year and has since claimed responsibility for several major terror attacks in the country.