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Former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali Dies at 83

Ben Ali was ousted in January 2011 in the wake of Tunisia’s mass reform movement.

Rabat – Former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has died at the age of 83.

Ben Ali assumed the Tunisian presidency in November 1987 in a coup d’état. 

Mounir Ben Salha,  the former president’s lawyer, confirmed his death to Euro News.

Ben Ali was ousted after a popular movement erupted in Tunisia in 2011, sparking the so-called Arab Spring.

Ben Ali’s death comes on the heels of the July death of Beji Caid Essebsi, Tunisia’s first democratically elected head of state.

The former president fled to Saudi Arabia after Tunisia’s 2011 revolution. He was subsequently found guilty in absentia for several serious crimes, including embezzlement of public funds.

A Tunisian court sentenced him in absentia to a 35 year prison sentence in 2011. In 2012, a military court handed Ben Ali a life sentence, in absentia, for “murder and looting.”

After 23 years in power, Ben Ali passed the remainder of his life in exile in Saudi Arabia.

The former president failed to fulfill his vows to make Tunisia a more democratic country.  

Ben Ali won elections during the first two presidential pools in 1989 and 1994, the BBC reported.

Ben Ali won other elections after two separate changes to Tunisia’s constitution allowed him to run for more terms.

“He won his final five-year term in 2009, with his share of the vote dropping just below 90%,” the BBC said.

Despite downturns during his rule, Ben Ali’s reforms in the economic sector and women’s rights received applause.

A scourge of unemployment and social disparities, however, led to protests across the country, calling for radical change and a fair regime.

Ben Ali was born in 1936. He completed his studies in the US and France. He rose to his first high level political position in 1980 as Tunisia’s ambassador to Poland.