Ousted Tunisian Dictator Accused of Looting and Despoiling Carthage

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Much international concern has focused on acts of looting of cultural artifacts during the current revolutionary unrest in Egypt. However, in Tunisia, a far more spectacular cultural crime is making news, this one carried out by the agents of the state themselves. Recently ousted dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and his family stand accused of illegal appropriation and plundering of the site of the ancient city of Carthage. A pair of activists are publicizing the crimes in a petition they have launched demanding that they be rectified by the new government.

The ruins of Carthage and the village of Sidi Bou Saïd are located next to the modern city of Tunis, and were designated UNESCO heritage sites in 1979. At the time, the Tunisian government classified them as "non-construction" zones because of their archeological and historic interest. Now, Abdelmajid Ennabli, an archeologist who was head of the Carthage site during excavations from 1972 to 1992, and Jellal Abdelkafi, an urban planner who has studied urbanization and land use, are accusing Ben Ali and his family of removing large swaths of these zones from this protective category so that they could build a luxury apartment complex....

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