The former Tunisian president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and his wife have been sentenced to 35 years in jail after being found guilty of theft in absentia by a Tunisian court.
Ben Ali and his wife, Leila Trabelsi, were accused of theft and unlawful possession of large sums of foreign currency, jewellery, archaeological artefacts, drugs and weapons.
The case was brought in absentia after Ben Ali fled Tunisia on 14 January following mass protests across the country. Ben Ali, who has since said he was deceived into leaving Tunisia, has accumulated vast wealth from his involvement in some of the country’s biggest businesses during his 23-year reign.
In addition to the lengthy sentences, the court ordered that the former president and his wife pay fines totalling 91m Tunisian dinars (£41m) and while the trial has moved swiftly, the court said the judgment only covered part of the charges against him and would rule on others at a later date.
Husni Beji, one of five lawyers representing Ben Ali, told Reuters before the hearing started: “We are going to ask for an adjournment … I want to convince Ben Ali to attend the trial.”