Ben Ali, who ruled his North African country from 1987 until 2011, was viewed by some as a bulwark against Islamist extremism.
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.
“We had confirmation of his death 30 minutes ago,” the ministry said, without giving further details.
The exiled 83-year-old’s lawyer, Mounir Ben Salha, confirmed the news, citing family members and Ben Ali’s doctor.
Ben Ali, who ruled his North African country from 1987 until 2011, was viewed by some as a bulwark against Islamist extremism, but faced criticism for muzzling the opposition and his reluctance to embrace democracy.
Eventually, growing frustration over unemployment and high prices snapped.
In late 2010, the self-immolation of a young trader sparked protests that rocked the country and sparked a deadly clampdown.
Ben Ali fled Tunisia for Saudi Arabia on January 14, 2011.
His rapid departure sparked a string of similar uprisings across the region, toppling Egyptian and Libyan strongmen Hosni Mubarak and Moamer Kadhafi.
The turmoil triggered what was to become Syria’s devastating eight-year war.
In mid-2012, Ben Ali was sentenced in absentia to life in jail for his role in the deaths of protesters during the uprising that ousted him.
Little information has emerged on his life in exile.
Photos posted on Instagram in 2013 showed the former strongman smiling in striped pyjamas.
Ben Ali is survived by six children; three daughters by a first marriage and two daughters and a son by Leila Trabelsi.
In other news – Limpopo Chief orders foreigners to leave his village
A Limpopo traditional leader has ordered foreign tuckshop owners to leave his village “for selling fake products”. Chairperson of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa in Limpopo, Kgoshi Letsiri Phaahla, told Sowetan last week he served notices to at least six foreign shopkeepers in his village, giving them seven days to leave, which they have ignored.
Phaahla of GaPhaahla village near Jane Furse said he was approached by concerned residents who raised complaints regarding fake and expired products. continue reading