Former Tunisian President and longtime autocrat, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has passed away on Thursday, according to his family lawyer and Tunisia’s foreign ministry.
Ben Ali died in Saudi Arabia at the age of 83, several days after reports emerged on 13 September that he had been hospitalised in Riyadh and was in critical condition.
His lawyer, Mounir bin Salha, said on Facebook that Ben Ali died in Jeddah on Thursday and that his body will be buried on Friday in Mecca.
He had lived in exile in the Gulf kingdom since 14 January 2011, one month into protests against his 24 years of rule. He is survived by his wife Leila and their three children – Nesrine, Halima and Mohamed – as well as by three daughters from his first marriage, Ghazwa, Dorsaf and Cyrine.
Ben Ali never served time in prison despite having been sentenced to jail by Tunisian courts in absentia for abuse of power, corruption and involuntary homicide.
The former ruler had largely disappeared from the public sphere since his overthrow, yet he had vowed in May 2019 to return to Tunisia. “Be assured, I am coming back, God willing,” he wrote in a letter at the time.