Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 October 2019

Tunisia PM: ailing former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali can return

Youssef Chahed responds to reports that 83-year-old deposed leader is in 'critical condition'

Zine El Abidine Ben Ali waves as he arrives at campaign rally in October 2009, just 13 months before he was deposed and forced to flee Tunisia. AP Photo
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali waves as he arrives at campaign rally in October 2009, just 13 months before he was deposed and forced to flee Tunisia. AP Photo

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has said that the deposed former autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali would be allowed to return the country if he was critically ill as reported by his lawyer.

"I will give my green light for his return. It's a humanitarian case. If he's ill as rumoured, he can return to his country like any other Tunisian," Mr Chahed said late on Thursday on Hannibal TV.

"If he wants to return to be buried here, I give my green light," he said.

Mr Chahed's decision comes ahead of Tunisia presidential election on Sunday in which he is one of the candidates.

Speaking to Tunisian radio stations, lawyer Mounir ben Salha said earlier that Ben Ali, who fled to Saudi Arabia after the 2011 uprising that ended more than two decades of his rule, was in "critical condition".

He said Ben Ali's daughter had called him to say the 83-year-old former president was "very sick" after years of treatment for prostate cancer.

"He's not dead but the condition of his health is bad. He has left hospital and is being treated at home. His condition is stable," Mr Ben Salha said.

Ben Ali was convicted in absentia to several prison terms for corruption-related violations.

Updated: September 13, 2019 05:46 PM

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