Tunisian ex-President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was born in September 1936. He was expelled from school for joining the resistance to French colonial rule.
When he left school he completed various military studies in France and the USA and then returned to Tunisia. His military career began in 1964. He established and directed the Military Security Department for 10 years.
In 1980 he became the Tunisian Ambassador to Warsaw, in Poland, and in 1986 was appointed Interior Minister. In 1987 he became Prime Minister and the same year when the incumbent President was declared too senile to rule, took over as President.
He remained in power through five elections, which have been criticised by rights groups as being unfair.
Ben Ali is married to Leila Ben Ali. They have three children. Ben Ali also has three other children from a previous marriage.