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Prosecutors seek death for exiled Tunisian strongman

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 5:30 AM EDT, Thu May 24, 2012
A photo taken on December 13, 2010 shows Tunisia's ousted president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali at Tunis-Carthage airport in Tunis.
A photo taken on December 13, 2010 shows Tunisia's ousted president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali at Tunis-Carthage airport in Tunis.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ben Ali has been in exile in Saudi Arabia since his overthrow
  • He is being tried in absentia on charges he ordered police to fire on demonstrators
  • Several former officials in his government are awaiting a military court's verdict

(CNN) -- Tunisian prosecutors say they'll seek a death sentence for former President Zine El Abedine Ben Ali, now charged in absentia with ordering the killings of anti-government demonstrators.

Ben Ali has remained in exile in Saudi Arabia since the January 2011 uprising that forced him from office. He is being tried in absentia in the deaths of dozens of anti-government protesters during the revolt, and the state news agency Tunis Afrique Presse reported Wednesday that prosecutors asked a court to impose a death sentence in his case.

In addition, the prosecutor's office said former Interior Minister Rafik Kacem and dozens of other former officials now awaiting a military court's verdict should get the "maximum" sentence short of death, according to TAP.

Ben Ali already has been convicted in absentia and sentenced to five years in prison for his role in a 1991 case in which 17 servicemen were accused of plotting a coup against his regime.

Tunisia's revolt touched off the Arab Spring movements in several other countries that ultimately toppled three other longtime Arab rulers. One of those, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, also faces a possible death sentence on charges he ordered police to fire on demonstrators who demanded his ouster, but lawyers familiar with the case have said it was unlikely the ailing Mubarak would have to face the gallows.

Journalist Houda Zaghdoudi contributed to this report for CNN.

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