Tunisia PM says cancer-stricken Ben Ali can return home

Tunisia PM says cancer-stricken former dictator Ben Ali can return home
2 min read
13 September, 2019
'If he wants to return to be buried here, I give my green light' said Youssef Chahed of exiled autocrat Ben Ali, who has been hospitalised for prostate cancer.
The critically ill exiled autocrat has been hospitalised in Saudi Arabia [Getty]
Tunisia's prime minister said exiled former autocrat Zine el Abidine Ben Ali would be allowed to return home 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," Youssef Chahed said late Thursday on Hannibal TV.

"If he wants to return to be buried here, I give my green light," added Chahed, who is also a candidate in Tunisia's presidential election on Sunday.

Ben Ali's lawyer, Mounir Ben Salha, said hours earlier that Tunisia's leader, who was ousted in a 2011 revolt when he fled to Saudi Arabia following two decades of iron-fisted rule, was "in critical condition".

Read more: Tunisia's Fragile Democracy after Essebsi

"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," the lawyer said on Oxygene FM radio.

Tunisian courts have condemned Ben Ali, 83, in absentia to several prison sentences, including life terms, for abuse of power, graft and involuntary homicide.

The ousted dictator was hospitalised due to a "health crisis" in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Ben Salha said on Thursday. He is said to have been suffering from prostate cancer for several years.

Ben Ali has lived in exile in the wealthy Gulf kingdom since Tunisia's 2011 revolution.

The former strongman has made no public statements since leaving Tunisia, and this is the first time his family or lawyer have gone public about his health problems.

On Sunday, Tunisia will hold hold its second free presidential election since ousting Ben Ali.

The vote was brought forward due to the death of Beji Caid Essebsi, Tunisia’s first democratically elected president.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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