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Tunisia starts trials over 2015 Sousse beach massacre

London still advises against non-essential travel to Tunisia [Getty]

Date of publication: 27 May, 2017

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A Tunisian court held its first public hearing Friday in the trial of 26 people in connection with a 2015 extremist beach massacre that killed dozens of foreign tourists.
A Tunisian court held its first public hearing Friday in the trial of 26 people in connection with a 2015 extremist beach massacre that killed dozens of foreign tourists.

A student armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle and grenades went on a rampage in the Port al-Kantaoui resort near Sousse killing 38 holidaymakers, 30 of them Britons, before being shot dead by police.

It was the second of two deadly attacks on foreigners claimed by the Islamic State group that year, which devastated Tunisia's once-lucrative tourism sector.

Security was unusually tight at the Tunis courthouse for Friday's hearing, which lasted around an hour and a half and was attended by British diplomatic officials.

The next hearing in the case was set for October 3, judiciary spokesman Sofiene Sliti told AFP.

Six of the defendants in the case are policemen accused of failing to assist a person in danger.

The remainder, all Tunisians, are accused of terrorist offences, murder and "conspiracy against the security of the state", the prosecution said.

The prosecution said that 26 people were being tried, revising the number down from its earlier statement that 33 accused were going on trial.

If convicted, they could face the death penalty under a 2015 anti-terror law, despite a moratorium on capital punishment since 1991.

Tunisian authorities say gunman Seifeddine Rezgui had "mainly" been radicalised on the internet before receiving weapons training in neighbouring Libya.

There has been widespread criticism of the Tunisian police force's actions during the June 26, 2015 massacre.

British judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith, who held an inquest into the deaths of the Britons among the holidaymakers, said in February that the police response had been "at best shambolic, at worst cowardly".

"Their response could and should have been more effective," he said.

Andrew Ritchie, a lawyer representing 20 victims' families, read out a January 2015 report by a British diplomat, saying there had been "little in the way of effective security to prevent or respond to an attack" at the beach.

Nearly two years after the massacre, London still advises against non-essential travel to Tunisia, a restriction Tunis would like to see lifted.

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