Ousted Ben Ali sentenced in absentia

July 5, 2011 at 8:49 AM
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TUNIS, Tunisia, July 5 (UPI) -- Ex-Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali got a 15 1/2-year prison sentence on charges related to weapons, artifacts and illegal drugs found in his palace.

Ben Ali, ousted by a popular uprising in January, was tried and convicted in absentia during a one-day trial Monday, CNN reported. He and his wife, Leila Trabelsi, have been living in exile in Saudi Arabia since his overthrow.

Last month, Ben Ali and Trabelsi were sentenced to 35 years in prison on corruption charges and fined $65 million. Ben Ali and members of his inner circle also face charges on allegations of murder and torture that have been referred to a Tunisian military court, the country's state news agency TAP said.

Ben Ali had ruled Tunisia since 1987. Protests began in December after the self-immolation of a fruit vendor whose cart was seized by police. The fiery suicide set off protests among Tunisians against government corruption, high unemployment and rising food prices.

Ben Ali's political party has been dissolved by court order and parliamentary elections are scheduled for July.

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