4 sentenced to death in Tunisia for a 2013 assassination of a politician

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — A Tunisian court sentenced four people to death and two to life in prison on charges stemming from the murder of a left-wing politician, a public prosecutor said Wednesday.

Chokri Belaid, the 48-year-old leader of the Popular Front coalition, was shot in his car outside his home in Tunis in February 2013. His assassination, the country’s first in decades, prompted mass protests and helped lead to the resignation of the then-prime minister.

Belaid earned a following for his forceful criticisms of Ennahda, the Islamist party that rose to power after President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali became the first dictator toppled in the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. His supporters blamed the party for taking an overly accommodating approach toward extremists after his assassination.

Those criticisms and subsequent assassinations later that year set off a political crisis for Tunisia as it struggled to transition from dictatorship to democracy.

Authorities blamed Belaid’s murder on Islamic extremists. Twenty-three had been charged in a sprawling case that took years to investigate and bring to trial. On Wednesday, five defendants were acquitted while others received sentences ranging from two to 120 years.

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