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Former Premier Sentenced Inabsentia to Three Years in Prison

December 26, 1986

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) _ The official news agency said Thursday that a court sentenced former Premier Mohamed Mzali to three years in prison for defamation and injurious attacks on Tunisia.

Mzali fled the country three months ago and the sentenced was imposed in absentia. The court cited seven incidents in which it said Mzali injured the state.

Mzali was premier for six years and was designated successor to President- for-Life Habib Bourguiba before he was removed unexpectedly from office in July.

In September he crossed the border into Algeria and then fled to Europe. He was found guilty of illegally crossing the frontier in an earlier trial and sentenced to a year in prison.

In exile, Mzali has shuttled between France and Switzerland, sometime giving interviews to the local press.

The official Tunisian news agency TAP said that in one interview he compared his country to the Soviet Union under Josef Stalin.

There has been no official explanation why Mzali was replaced as premier of this pro-Western North African country by Rachid Sfar.