The trial of former Tunisian president Ben Ali has opened in Tunis.
The man who ruled Tunisia for 23 years fled to Saudi Arabia on January 14 after mass protests drove him from power and inspired the ‘Arab Spring’.
Hundreds gathered outside the court to demand Ben Ali’s return to the country. The 72-year-old and his wife, Leila Trabelsi are being tried in absentia on charges of theft and illegally possessing arms, jewellery, cash and drugs
The court is to probe the widely held belief that Ben Ali and his family gorged themselves on state assets and used their influence to get a slice of lucrative business opportunities.
In a statement delivered to the court by his lawyer Ben Ali claimed he was tricked into leaving Tunisia. He said he boarded a plane to Jeddah with his family and was due to return, but the aircraft took off leaving him stranded in Saudi Arabia.
Ben Ali has denied ordering police to fire on protesters.