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Tunisia’s ex-leader Ben Ali ‘in coma’ in Saudi hospital

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, February 17, 2011 16:08 EDT
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TUNIS – Ousted Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali suffered a stroke and was “in a coma” in a Saudi hospital, a family friend said Thursday, as more details of corruption under his rule came to light.

The 74-year-old former leader slipped into a coma “two days ago” while being treated in a Jeddah hospital after a stroke, according to the friend.

“He had a stroke, and his condition is serious,” he said.

Earlier, a spokesman for the interim government that replaced Ben Ali’s regime would neither confirm nor deny the reports that he was in hospital. Tunisia’s Le Quotidien newspaper had reported Thursday that he had a stroke.

Government spokesman Taieb Baccouch said Mohamed Ghannouchi’s transitional government which includes members of the opposition would discuss Ben Ali’s condition during a cabinet meeting on Friday.

Ben Ali and his family fled to Saudi Arabia on January 14 after a popular uprising ended his 23-year grip on power.

Dissident and journalist Touafik Ben Brik, who was jailed under the regime for articles criticising Ben Ali, told AFP he felt as if he was “almost in mourning” for the dictator, such was his hold on the country.

“I can never forget. He is still in us, he is part of our past and he will live for a long time in us.”

Yadh Ben Achour, a Tunisian lawyer and head of the newly established national commission for political reform, said Ben Ali’s hospitalisation in exile “is proof there is justice on earth”.

On the streets of Tunis, there was little sympathy for former president as the news broke.

“If he dies, we’re losing a dictator and I say ‘Good riddance’,” said Adel, a 50-year-old teacher. “We’re turning a page, we’ve other things to do in this country.”

Amin, a 25-year-old student, had an equally harsh assessment. “If his death is confirmed I can only say that God’s punishment has been quick.”

Since Ben Ali fled his homeland, details have gradually come to light of the extent of corruption under his rule,

He and his wife Leila Trabelsi, along with their inner circle, are suspected of having pocketed much of the country’s wealth over the years and of taking personal stakes in much of the economy.

Central bank chief Mustapha Kamel Nabli said this week that Tunisian banks funded businesses linked to the families of the couple to the tune of 1.3 billion euros (1.8 billion dollars).

Nabli said this was the equivalent of five percent of all financing by the Tunisian banking sector, and nearly 30 percent of the cash was provided with no guarantees of repayment.

The spark that lit the fuse of nationwide protests against Ben Ali’s 23-year-rule came in the western town of Sidi Bouzid in mid-December, when 26-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi set himself alight in protest at security forces shutting down his market stall.

Bouazizi became a symbol for Tunisian youth facing the hopelessness of a 30-percent unemployment rate.

The new transitional government has pledged to hold free presidential and legislative elections within six months. It also promised an amnesty law and the lifting of a ban on all opposition parties.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy meanwhile told prime minister Ghannouchi that France — Tunisia’s former colonial ruler — would be “in the front row (of countries) helping the Tunisian people to make its desire to build a democratic and prosperous Tunisia come true,” a statement issued in Paris said.

French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde and European Affairs Minister Laurent Wauquiez are to have talks with Tunisian leaders in Tunis next week.

Abid Briki of the UGTT, the main union behind the protests, told Italian magazine Left that comes out on Friday, “The social situation (in Tunisia) is becoming explosive.

“If the government doesn’t start immediate negotiations with social players there is a risk that no one will be able to control the country any more.”

“There is a problem of managing the post-revolution period. It’s time for practical action because we have 500,000 unemployed people.”

Briki estimated unemployment in inland areas of the north African country at 22-23 percent in cities “where there is nothing, not even roads to reach them”.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
AFP journalists cover wars, conflicts, politics, science, health, the environment, technology, fashion, entertainment, the offbeat, sports and a whole lot more in text, photographs, video, graphics and online.
 
 
 
 
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  • http://www.BaltimoreGreenCurrency.org Shrapnel

    That’s pretty strange. First Mubarak and now this guy. And has anyone seen King Abdullah since the Saudi Times report of his death? After being a dick tater they tun into a common or garden tater.

  • http://voxxrocks.com/blog/ HIStory Indeed

    Lol, The CIA or Mossad must be testing new pills. This is starting to become a problem for dictators on the outs…

    Mubarak Is Rumored To Have Fallen Into A Coma After His Final Speech

  • H.P. Loathecraft

    CNN just now reporting numerous top officials including the Minister of the Interior arrested for corruption.
    Perhaps they will experience a taste of their own medicine…

  • Anonymous

    Mubarak no this guy, something major is going on and the media isn’t even asking the question what is the odds that two men who where dethroned essentially within weeks of each other are in a coma. Then there’s the King of Saudi Arabia having a heart attack supposedly and going into a coma. It almost seems like someone is cleaning house and getting rid of witnesses.

  • Anonymous

    What a coinky-dink.

  • Anonymous

    Hmm, good point. Maybe they’re all going to “die” and then the CIA will give them their new identities.

  • Johnny Warbucks

    Can’t say I have any sympathy. Of course, the good people of Tunis will be deprived of exerting justice on the scumbag but, either way, he’ll be dead. And a dead dictator is a good dictator. Now, if only Mubarak would follow soon.

  • Johnny Warbucks

    Should we say Mossad? Or are they going into the Witness Protection Program?

  • Johnny Warbucks

    Was the CIA Point Man standing near him during the speech?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_YHUR5LALBGRBDQ5VAKAL3JDKNU JustinB

    They are all LOST on the island with Jack and Kate. I heard Jacob is pissed because after what Sayid did, he hates Arabs.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_YHUR5LALBGRBDQ5VAKAL3JDKNU JustinB

    This is weird! If it looks like shit… smells like shit….

    Didn’t Obama speak with all 3 just prior to their heart attack, stroke, and comas?

    I’m still wondering what happened to Alexander Litinvenko!

  • NadePaulKuciGravMcKi

    spill the beans
    insurance pkg

  • Hassan i Sabbah

    Down the friggin’ rabbit hole again. “Move along. Just a coincidence. Nothing to see here.”

  • Hassan i Sabbah

    Oh fuck you you antisemitic little moron. Do you never take your brain out of your ass long enough to get a lungful of fresh air?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TF72KWIG5DGSPE3ZXDK6FX4KTQ Robert Burned

    The unfortunately indestructible Mubarak was said to be in a coma last week, but apparently wasn’t. Is this some joke making the rounds of ex-Heads of State?

  • http://twitter.com/Bootstrapbettys Bootstrap Betty

    They’re probably Florida’s 2 newest residents!

  • Anonymous

    Wow, second guy in a row, Mubarak and now him..hmm. C-I-A!

  • Johnny Warbucks

    I dare you to show me how I am anti-semitic. Go ahead, you idiot. Now is your chance to redeem your mentally deficient self. Show me up!

    And if I were you, I’d heed your own advice and take your own head (empty as it may be) out of your ass long enough to see what’s around you and learn how to read while you’re at it.

    Troll!

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