Wife of the deposed Tunisian dictator says husband was victim of plot security officials plot



The reviled wife of the deposed Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali dictator says her husband was the victim of plot hatched by top security officials - not a revolution.

Leila Ben Ali makes the claim in a new book based on interviews conducted over Skype from Saudi Arabia, where she lives in exile with her husband. The unpopular former first lady, who was labelled the Queen of Carthage for her reputedly imperious conduct, suggests that the Tunisian uprising that led to her husband's ouster last year and sparked a wave of similar movements across the Arab world was a coup d'etat fomented by army and security officers with western help.

The 55 year old remains widely detested in Tunisia for her obsession with wealth and possessions. She is also alleged to have encouraged the rapacity of her family, the Trabalsi clan, who seized businesses ranging from banks to airlines, radio and television stations and large shops.

During her husband's reign, she presented herself as a liberated Arab woman and appeared only in expensive western clothes. But she conducted her Skype interviews with French journalist Yves Derai wearing a veil and sunglasses, as Saudi law demands.

Leila Ben Ali said that she believed that the Tunisian army and security services had deposed her husband, with western and especially French help. While the rest of the world viewed the uprising to be a popular revolt against the wealth of the few and the poverty of the many, Ms Ben Ali insists that it was caused by "indoctrination of the masses, the distribution of money in poor areas, the recruitment of snipers, the intensification of protests through targeted killings, the torching of homes."

She sees signs of western connivance in an "unusual number of internships" given to young Tunisians in western countries in the months before the revolt which. Their time abroad, she says, "taught them how to write blogs".

Her husband's flight from Tunis in January 2011 was, she claims, a confidence trick mounted by Ali Seriati, the head of presidential security. Their exile in Saudi Arabia would not have occurred "without Seriati's insistence," she said. "Even when we were in the air, my husband thought that he could return the following morning."

The book, "Ma Vérité"  or "My Truth" has been the object of protests and mockery in France. Some Tunisians have suggested that French book shops should refuse to stock it. Pascal Clark, a well-known radio interviewer and commentator on France Inter, described it in a tweet as the "funniest book of the year".

However, Ms Ben Ali admits some responsibility - or at least that of her extended family - in her husband's downfall. "Among my own, there were some who exaggerated," she says. "Often the younger ones who freely indulged in their appetite for profits and refused to set limits… These weaknesses and errors of my family were amplified outside and used with the sole objective of bringing down the regime of Ben Ali ... We were the Achilles heel of the president."  

Leila Ben Ali also has a couple of bitter passages complaining that the former French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, let them down despite the many gifts he received. "He never refused the products of (the Tunisian) soil that we sent to him," she says.

Ms Ben Ali says that she and her husband would willingly return to Tunisia if they could be guaranteed a fair trial. Last week a Tunisian court sentenced he husband in absentia to life imprisonment. He has already been sentenced to more than 66 years in prison on charges ranging from drug trafficking to embezzlement.

Of her life in exile in Saudi Arabia, Leila Ben Ali she that said she spends "most of  the day looking after my husband and my children ... I rarely go out rarely, hardly meet anyone and I pray a lot."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent