Tunisia's ex-president Ben Ali dies

Tunisia's ex-president Ben Ali dies

Former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the first leader to be toppled by the Arab Spring revolts, died Thursday in Saudi Arabia, Tunisia's foreign ministry told AFP.

A handout picture from the Tunisian Presidency shows Ben Ali visiting Mohamed Bouazizi at a Tunis hospital in December 2010. He died at the age of 83, days to a free presidential election in his homeland.

On September 12, Ben Ali's attorney Mounir Ben Salha informed that the former leader's health is in critical state.

As a former security chief, Ben Ali ruled Tunisia for 23 years.

Ben Ali's ouster on January 14, 2011, amid Tunisia's relatively peaceful "Jasmine Revolution" inspired what became known as the Arab Spring, a movement that saw several autocratic leaders swept from power.

After Ben Ali was ousted from power on January 14, 2011, his picture was peeled off buildings and billboards nationwide like old wallpaper.

Tunisian credit Ben Ali with pushing their country into a leading role in Africa and the Arab world.


In Egypt, the unrest toppled President Hosni Mubarak and opened the door for an Islamist successor who served only one year before a military-backed popular uprising saw him also booted from office.

During his era, Ben Ali's photograph was displayed in every shop, school and government office from the beach resorts of the Mediterranean coast to the impoverished villages and mining towns of Tunisia's hilly interior.

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Corruption was endemic under Ben Ali, whose close circle - especially his wife's family - had an iron grip on the economy.

More than 300 people were killed in the initial repression of the protest movement.

A Tunisian court in 2012 sentenced him in absentia to life in prison for inciting violence that led to deaths.

Tunisia's autocratic former president brought stability but little freedom to the country.

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