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AFP
September 22, 2019

Tunisia turns the page on Ben Ali

World

AFP
September 22, 2019

TUNIS: With the burial in Saudi exile Saturday of former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia is turning the page on more than two decades of nepotism and repression with a large dose of indifference. Forced out of Tunisia on January 14, 2011, by weeks of popular outrage spurred by the self-immolation of a market trader protesting police harassment and unemployment, Ben Ali died on Thursday in the Saudi city of Jeddah. His death did not feature especially heavily either in the news or the conversations of ordinary Tunisians, in a country that is in the midst of elections. Reflecting the pluralism that has emerged since Ben Ali´s downfall, two non-establishment candidates made it through the first round of a presidential poll held on Sunday — one a socially conservative academic committed to radical decentralisation of power, the other a populist media magnate currently behind bars. The funeral of the former president is to take place in the Muslim holy city of Medina in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, according to a small notice published in La Presse newspaper. Some of his family will receive condolences on Sunday in an upmarket suburb of Tunis. The ex-leader´s wife, Leila Trabesli, who has led a comfortable and discreet life in exile with daughters Nesrine and Halima — along with son Mohamed — has little incentive to return home. She faces heavy sentences for embezzlement, alongside possession of weapons, drugs and archaeological artefacts. Ben Ali himself was sentenced several times to life in prison, including for the bloody suppression of protests in the last weeks of his autocratic rule, which killed more than 300 people. He never faced justice. “The second president of the Tunisian republic henceforth belongs to history, and history will judge him”, said his Lebanese lawyer Akram Azouri.

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