Tunisian militants sentenced to life for IS tourist mass murders

Tunisian militants sentenced to life for IS tourist mass murders
Seven Tunisian militants have been sentenced to prison for their involvement in the killing of 60 people, most of the victims tourists.
3 min read
09 February, 2019
Tunisia clamped down on security following the killings [Getty]

A Tunisian court sentenced a group of men to prison on Friday, for their involvement in the mass murder of 60 people at hotels and tourist sites across the North African country.

Defendants stood trial for separate two terror attacks in 2015 which targeted tourists at the Bardo National Museum and a few months later at the Souse tourist resort

Four suspects were sentenced to life in prison for their involvement in the Souse mass shooting, which left 38 people dead, mostly British tourists.

Five others were given sentences ranging from six months and six years for their involvement in the terror attack, while 17 were acquitted.

Three more Tunisians were handed life sentences for their role in the March 2015 Bardo National Museum massacre, which saw 21 foreign tourists and a Tunisian security guard shot dead by three gunmen.

Others linked to that case were given sentences between one to 16 years, while dozens were acquitted.

Both of the attacks were claimed by the Islamic State group and were said to be closely linked.

Sondes Ouartani, lawyer for two other suspects, claimed that some of the defendants had been subjected to torture.

He said that many of the accused who weren't detained didn't show up to court, and expected the death penalty to be applied for some of those convicted of terrorism and murder.

Imene Truqui, another defence lawyer, offered her condolences to families and insisted the trial was held in a democratic atmosphere.

Gerard Chemla, a lawyer for French victims, said that a live feed of the court case had brought some degree of comfort to relatives.

"The trial allowed them - by organising the video conferencing and giving the floor to lawyers chosen by the victims - to finally be recognised as victims by the Tunisian state," he said. 

 Royal Courts of Justice in London is also looking into the Souse killings, which saw 30 British tourists shot dead.

Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith concluded that the response of Tunisian police was "at best shambolic, at worst cowardly", and slammed the hotel for not providing guards with arms or walkie-talkies.

Some of those involved in the mass shootings had gone to Syria to fight with the Islamic State group, while others sympathised with the jihadis that occupied large parts of Syria and Iraq from 2014.

Tunisians made up a large component of the foreign fighters in IS, while the porous border with neighbouring Libya has also aided militants.

Tunisia saw a big hit to its vital tourism sector following the killings, with the UK only advising against "all but essential travel" to the North African country in 2017, when security was ramped up.

Agencies contributed to this story.