A Tunisian court sentenced former president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in absentia on Monday to 35 years in jail, six months after his overthrow in a revolution helped to inspire the “Arab Spring”.
Ali, who has been in Saudi Arabia since he was forced from power, was found guilty after just one day of deliberation of theft, illegally possessing jewellery and large sums of cash.
The same sentence was handed down to his wife Leila Trabelsi, a former hairdresser whose lavish lifestyle and clique of wealthy relatives were symbols of the corruption of the Ben Ali era for many Tunisians.
Ali and his wife flew to Saudi Arabia on January 14 after mass protests against his 23-year rule.
During his time in office, members of his extended family accumulated fortunes while his security forces arrested anyone who dared to dissent.
Tunisia’s revolt electrified millions across the Arab world who suffer similarly from high unemployment, rising prices and repressive governments. Ali’s case has been watched in Egypt, where former president Hosni Mubarak is due to stand trial over the killing of protesters.