TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) – A lawyer for suspects in two separate attacks in Tunisia that killed some 60 people, mainly tourists, offered condolences to the victims’ families Friday.
Twenty-four suspects, who have all denied any direct role in the attack, attended the final hearing of the trial over a massacre at a popular sea resort and a deadly attack at the famed Bardo Museum.
The suspected mastermind of both attacks hasn’t been caught and is thought to be hiding in Libya.
The final session at the Tunis courthouse was dedicated to the defense’s closing arguments and a livestream was made possible so that families of victims in Europe could watch. A verdict is expected to be reached later Friday.
Defense lawyer Imene Truqui presented her condolences to families and insisted the trial was held in a democratic atmosphere, with all parties granted the right to defend themselves.
According to lawyer Sondos Ouertani, 44 people have been charged but many suspects who weren’t detained haven’t showed up at the trial.
On June 26, 2015, in the coastal city of Sousse, attacker Aymen Rezgui walked onto the beach of the Imperial Hotel and used an assault rifle to shoot at tourists in lounge chairs, then continued onto the hotel pool before throwing a grenade into the hotel.
Rezgui, a Tunisian student who trained with Libyan militants, was killed about 15 minutes later by police. He killed 38 people in Tunisia’s deadliest attack, whose responsibility was claimed by the Islamic State group.
Some of the defendants face potential capital punishment for charges of premeditated murder, threatening state security and belonging to a group with extremist links.
In addition to the massacre at the beach resort, Tunisia suffered two other major attacks in 2015. At the Bardo Museum, 22 people were killed by extremists while 12 perished in the center of Tunis on a bus carrying presidential guards.
IS also claimed responsibility for those attacks, which, along with the attack at the Imperial Hotel, devastated the country’s tourism sector as travel agencies pulled out and governments issued travel warnings.
Tourism has since partially bounced back after Tunisia’s government implemented a series of measures aimed at securing popular destinations in the country.
This story has been corrected to show that 24 suspects attended the final hearing, not 21 suspects.