September 20, 2019

Former Tunisian president Ben Ali dies in Saudi exile

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Tunisia’s former President Zine EL Abidine Ben Ali has died.He died in exile in Saudi Arabia on Thursday, aged 83.

Ben Ali had been in intensive care in a hospital for three months after battling prostate cancer for years.

The former Tunisian leader fled the country in January 2011 as his compatriots rose up against his rule in a revolution that inspired other Arab Spring uprisings abroad and led to a democratic transition in Tunisia.

On Sunday, Tunisians voted in an election that featured candidates from across the political divide, sending two political outsiders through to a second-round vote.

A former security chief, Ben Ali had run Tunisia for 23 years, taking power when – as prime minister in 1987 – he declared president-for-life Habib Bourguiba medically unfit to rule.

He then sought to stifle any form of political opposition while opening up the economy, which led to rapid growth but also fuelled inequality and accusations of corruption among his own relatives.

In 2011, a Tunisian court sentenced Ben Ali in absentia to 35 years in prison on charges ranging from corruption to torture, and in 2012 a military court sentenced him to another 20 years for inciting “murder and looting” during his rule.

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