Ben Ali: the Tunisian autocrat who laid the foundations for his demise

Press/Media: Articles in 'The Conversation'

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Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia’s former long-time president who died in mid-September, will probably be remembered best as the first autocrat to fall during the popular uprisings that spread across the Middle East in early 2011. He ruled Tunisia with an iron fist for 23 years until he fled into exile in Saudi Arabia in January that year. This followed popular and mostly spontaneous and peaceful demonstrations in the country.

What sealed Ben Ali’s fate was the army’s withdrawal of support and its refusal to fire on protesters. By the middle of 2011 a Tunisian court had convicted him and his wife of embezzlement. They were both sentenced, in absentia, to 35 years in prison. In a second trial, he was convicted of smuggling drugs and guns, and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Period7 Oct 2019

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