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Tunisia: Former President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali dies in Saudi Arabia

By Jeune Afrique
Posted on Thursday, 19 September 2019 17:15

Former Tunisian President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali at Tunis Carthage Airport on December 13, 2010. Hassene Dridi/AP/SIPA

Former Tunisian President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali died this Thursday in Saudi Arabia, where he had been living in exile since his fall from power in 2011.

The former Tunisian head of state Zine el Abidine Ben Ali is dead, his lawyer, Mounir Ben Salha, announced on his Facebook page on Thursday 19 September.

This information was confirmed to Jeune Afrique by the Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


On Friday, September 13, Me Mounir Ben Salha declared that he was “sick”, confirming for the first time a rumour that had been mentioned many times but was still officially denied.

Rare public appearances

The 83-year-old who took power in 1987 fled to Saudi Arabia after being expelled in 2011. Since then, he has made only very few public appearances or statements.

At the beginning of January, Ben Ali reappeared, on the occasion of his daughter Nesrine’s wedding with the rapper k2rhym – Karim El Gharbi in the civil registry office -, in a photo widely-shared on social networks, on which he seemed particularly aged. He stood smiling with his wife Leïla Ben Ali and the two newlyweds.

A few months later, the former president addressed the Tunisians directly for the first time since his exile. In a letter published on his lawyer’s Facebook page, Zine el Abidine Ben Ali said she wanted to put an end to rumours about his state of health, which had “hurt” his entourage.

Since 2012, the Tunisian judiciary has been calling for the extradition of the former raïs, sentenced in absentia to more than 100 years’ imprisonment in various human rights and corruption cases.

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