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Tunisia Hangs 2 Muslim Fundamentalists : Sentence Carried Out Despite Islamic Threats Against Leaders

October 09, 1987|Associated Press

TUNIS, Tunisia — Two Muslim fundamentalists were hanged at dawn Thursday after President Habib Bourguiba ignored appeals for a pardon and threats against Tunisian leaders if the death sentences were carried out.

The Justice Ministry said Mehrez Boudegga, 25, and Boulbaba Dekhil, 24, were executed at the Tunis prison where they had been held.

The two were condemned to death Sept. 27 after a monthlong trial of 90 fundamentalists, mostly members of the outlawed Islamic Tendency Movement. All were accused of trying to topple Bourguiba's pro-Western government and replace it with an Islamic state.

Five others were sentenced to death, but they are among 37 accused who were tried in absentia.

'Declaration of War'

Within hours of the verdict by a state security court, the Lebanon-based Islamic Jihad threatened to kill Tunisian leaders if the death sentences were carried out. The pro-Iranian Shia Muslim group said it would consider any executions "a declaration of war . . . on Muslims throughout the world."

Similar threats from other pro-Iranian groups followed the warning from Islamic Jihad, which holds American and French hostages.

In its decision, the five-member court said Boudegga made the bombs that exploded Aug. 2 at four resort hotels, injuring 12 European tourists and a Tunisian. The court said Dekhil threw acid in the face of a member of the governing Destourian Socialist Party.

Verdict Called Moderate

The verdict, which spared the life of Islamic Tendency leader Raschid Ghannouchi, was widely regarded as relatively moderate, reportedly the result of pressure from Tunisia's Western allies and moderate Arab states fearful of a backlash should dozens be sent to the gallows.

Ghannouchi was one of two people sentenced to life in prison. Other sentences ranged from two to 20 years. Fourteen people were acquitted.

The trial culminated a seven-month crackdown by the government on Muslim fundamentalists and the movement, which espouses an Islamic state based on the precepts of the Koran, the Muslim holy book.

Authorities say 1,270 fundamentalists have been arrested since March, when Tunisia broke relations with Iran, charging that Iranian diplomats here were working with local groups to try to topple the government.

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