Tunisia Islamists may face death penalty-lawyer

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TUNIS, Sep 17 (Reuters) A Tunisian prosecutor has charged 30 Islamists with membership of a terrorist group, saying they planned a military coup, their defence lawyer said today.

The 30 Tunisians were expected to go on trial at the end of 2008, the lawyer, Samir Ben Amor, said, adding they were also accused of putting at risk the country's domestic security and of receiving military training in Tunisia.

''They could face the death penalty,'' he told Reuters. He added that some of the 30 had denied the charges while others did not contest them, but did not elaborate.

The charges relate to rare serious disturbances in which 14 Islamist gunmen were killed in clashes with security forces in and around Tunis on December 23 and January 3. Ben Amor said.

A previously unknown group calling itself ''Tunisian Youth for Unity and Jihad'' said the gunmen were its members. The authorities have said no such group existed but acknowledged that the gunmen were radical Islamists who were carrying details about foreign embassies.

Tunisia is a stable country known to most Europeans only as a holiday destination but since 2003 the north African country has arrested about 1,000 people on terrorism-related charges.

REUTERS AM AS2234

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