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Tunisia's Ben Ali receives second life sentence over protester deaths

Former dictator receives his second life sentence in absentia from a military court that convicted him for complicity in the killings of protesters during the uprising that ousted him last year.

TUNIS // Tunisia's former dictator yesterday received his second life sentence in absentia from a military court that convicted him for complicity in the killings of protesters during the uprising that ousted him last year.

Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who is in exile in Saudi Arabia, was already given a life sentence in June in the deaths of protesters in southern Tunisia, where the movement against him began in December 2010.

Tunisia has asked Saudi Arabia to extradite Ben Ali so he can face these and a slew of other charges in person, but has never received an answer. Nonetheless, the government here has pledged to bring Ben Ali and all of his associates to justice for crimes they allegedly committed during his 23-year rule.

The latest case concerned protesters killed in the capital and the north of the country, and some 43 officials were tried, receiving sentences ranging from five years to life in prison. The former head of the presidential guard, Ali Seriati, was sentenced to 20 years prison, while the former interior minister, Rafik Belhaj Kacem, was given 15 years. Both are in custody.

Ben Ali and his family are subject to dozens of lawsuits in military and civilian courts. The one-time autocrat already has been convicted of drug trafficking, arms trading and abuse of public funds and been sentenced to a total of 66 years in prison by civil courts.

The revolution in Tunisia sparked a wave of pro-democracy movements across the Middle East and North Africa that overthrew several governments and became known as the Arab Spring.

At least 338 people died as the government cracked down on protesters and another 2,147 were wounded.

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