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Ben Ali addresses Tunisia from Saudi Arabia: 'I am coming back, God willing'

In his first public statement since he was ousted in 2011, the 82-year old tells Tunisians he enjoys 'ultimate health and safety'
Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was president of Tunisia from 1987 to 2011 when he was ousted (AFP)

Former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has vowed to return to Tunisia, in a letter written in exile in Saudi Arabia and released this week.

Ben Ali, 82, has been living in Riyadh since he was ousted in 2011 in a popular uprising against his dictatorial rule.

On 14 January 2011, one month after nationwide protests against him, Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia with his wife Leila and their three children. He has since faced a range of charges in Tunisian courts, and has been sentenced to life in multiple trials on a string of charges including theft and inciting violence.

But this week, Ben Ali’s lawyer Mounir Ben Salha published a letter from Ben Ali to Tunisians dismissing rumours about his health and confirming that he enjoys “ultimate health and safety”.

He said the rumours have “upset” him and his family.

The ousted dictator said in his letter that he is “following the situation” in Tunisia, and urged Tunisians to “protect their country” and “save it from its economic crisis".

He ended his letter by promising to return: “Be assured, I am coming back, God willing.”

On Thursday, Ben Ali’s son-in-law posted a picture of him with his grandchildren with the caption: “a Ramadan night with family".

سهرة رمضانية عائلية.

Posted by K2 on Thursday, May 9, 2019

Last week, Tunisian politician Mohsen Marzouk triggered rumours about Ben Ali’s health when he posted on Facebook that he was “very ill”, citing “confirmed news". He also said that Ben Ali wished to be buried in Saudi Arabia.

Ben Ali’s lawyer, however, denied the report, and confirmed that his client was in “good health”, and that he never asked to be buried in Saudi Arabia.