Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 October 2019

Tunisia's ex-president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali buried in Madinah

He was laid to rest at the Al-Baqi cemetery next to the Prophet Mohammed's mosque

Mourners carry the coffin of the late former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali during his funeral at the Prophet Mohammed's mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Medina, Islam's second holiest city, on September 21, 2019. AFP
Mourners carry the coffin of the late former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali during his funeral at the Prophet Mohammed's mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Medina, Islam's second holiest city, on September 21, 2019. AFP

Tunisia's former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was buried in the holy city of Madinah on Saturday, after he died in exile in Saudi Arabia.

Ben Ali, who died on Thursday in the city of Jeddah, was laid to rest at Al-Baqi cemetery next to the Prophet Mohammed's mosque.

His body, covered by a green shroud, was carried to his final resting place by a procession of about a dozen men.

Some dressed in white, and others in suit, they crossed a marble forecourt in the shadow of the green dome of the mosque, before entering the cemetery.

Some of Ben Ali's family were to receive condolences on Sunday in an upmarket suburb of Tunis, according to a small notice published in Tunisia's La Presse newspaper.

The Saudi media and authorities have not made any comment about his death.

Ben Ali, the first leader to be toppled by the Arab uprisings, died aged 83.

He ruled his North African country from 1987 until 2011 and was viewed by some as a bulwark against extremism.

Eventually, growing frustration over unemployment and high prices boiled over.

In late 2010, a young trader in Sidi Bouzid, in the impoverished centre of the country, set fire to himself in protest after he was humiliated by police.

That sparked protests which rocked Tunisia and triggered a deadly clampdown.

But the protesters won: on January 14, 2011 Ben Ali fled Tunisia for Saudi Arabia where he lived until his death.

Reflecting the pluralism that has emerged since Ben Ali's downfall, two non-establishment candidates made it through the first round of a presidential poll held last Sunday - one a socially conservative academic committed to radical decentralisation of power, the other a populist media magnate currently behind bars.

The former leader's wife, Leila Trabesli, who has led a comfortable and discreet life in exile with daughters Nesrine and Halima — along with son Mohamed — has little incentive to return home.

Persistent social and economic problems have fed nostalgia in some quarters for the Ben Ali era but that is a limited phenomenon.

Updated: September 22, 2019 01:54 PM

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