The first trials of prisoners accused of “terrorism” in Tunisia since the 2011 revolution could open later this month, with 600 defendants facing prosecution, its justice minister said on Thursday.
Hafedh Ben Salah told AFP in an interview that the defendants included Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists who have been battling the Tunisian army near the Algerian border for nearly two years.
Since the uprising that ousted former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011, Tunisia has seen a proliferation of jihadist militias suppressed under the former dictator.
These groups have been blamed for a wave of attacks, including the assassination last year of two opposition lawmakers whose murders plunged the country into a protracted political crisis.
Suspected jihadists have also launched skirmishes against the army in the remote southern Mount Chaambi area since late 2012, killing dozens of soldiers and police.
In July, militants killed 15 soldiers in the restive border region, the bloodiest day in the army’s history.
Other detainees awaiting their trial include suspects who “took part in [terrorist] acts or were preparing to do so,” said Ben Salah.
“Since the revolution, I think there have been no terrorists who stood trial but I think that the first cases will come to court towards the end of the month,” he said.
According to the justice minister “there are 1 000-1 020 cases linked to terrorism” in Tunisia and “around 600 suspects jailed for terrorism”.
He said police had arrested between 2 000 – 3 000 people since the revolution but that most suspects were released due to a lack of evidence.