Africa

Tunisia seeks Ben Ali extradition from Saudi Arabia

Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali (file image)
Image caption Tunisia's revolt ended Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali's 23-year hold on power

Tunisia is formally requesting the extradition of ex-President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali from Saudi Arabia, where he fled last month.

Mr Ben Ali flew to Saudi Arabia on 14 January after 23 years in power, after being toppled by weeks of protests.

The 74-year-old former leader is reportedly very ill in hospital after suffering a stroke.

Tunisia now has an interim government which is preparing the country for national elections.

That government is now seeking to put Mr Ben Ali on trial on charges linked to the deaths of protesters during the uprising against his rule.

A statement from the foreign ministry in Tunis accused the former leader of involvement in "serious crimes" aimed at "sowing discord between the citizens of the same country by pushing them to kill one another", the AFP news agency reported.

As well as asking Riyadh to extradite Mr Ben Ali, Tunisia is seeking information on the former president's current health, including confirmation he is still alive.

Various recent reports have suggested that he is "gravely ill".

Although Mr Ben Ali was credited with creating political stability and strong economic growth, critics say he disregarded human rights and democratic values - claims he denies.

The government's extradition request comes as demonstrations continue to mount in Tunisia.

On Sunday thousands massed in Tunis demanding changes to the interim government, which many accuse of retaining links to the disgraced former regime.

Interim Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi has retained his position despite serving under Mr Ben Ali from 1999.

"We are against Ghannouchi's government because our revolution has led to nothing with Ghannouchi. This is Ben Ali's team and it has changed nothing," teacher Samia Mahfoudh, 50, told the AFP news agency.