A Tunisian court has sentenced deposed president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to fifteen years in prison after finding him guilty (in absentia) of possessing illegal drugs and guns.
Last month, Ben Ali and his wife Leila were sentenced to 35 years in jail on charges of embezzlement and misuse of state funds. They were also fined $66-million.
However, it is unclear if Ben Ali will ever see the inside of a prison cell since he and his wife fled to exile in Saudi Arabia in January.
The presiding judge Touhmi Hafi stated for the record: The accused is not present and is a fugitive.”
Thus far, Saudi officials have refused the Tunisian interim government’s entreaty to extradite Ben Ali.
In the court in Tunis, Ben Ali’s lawyer derided the one-day trial as a farce and the drug-and-gun charges as irrational.
How can we imagine that a president holding power can have two kilograms of cannabis resin of mediocre quality [with intentions] of selling it, Hosni Beji told Agence France Presse.
Beji claimed that the weapons found in Ben Ali's residence were presents from foreign leaders.
Indeed, AFP reported that the ex-president received such gifts from Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Saudi Arabia's Interior Minister Prince Nayef Ben Abdel Aziz.
Beji himself and his fellow attorneys have faced the wrath of protesters who attended the trial and showered him with insults.
Reuters reported that they shouted: Get out! You have betrayed Tunisia by defending Ben Ali! and You should have defended the young people killed by Ben Ali's weapons!
Meanwhile, Tunisian authorities will also investigate Ben Ali on charges of murder and abuse of power.