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Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Former Tunisian President, In Absentia Sentenced To Prison And $100 Million Fine

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TUNIS, Tunisia -- Tunisia's deposed president, his daughter and son-in-law were sentenced in absentia to serve prison terms Thursday and ordered to pay $100 million in damages for corruption in property deals.

Former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's nephew was also convicted of drug charges in Thursday's proceedings and sent to prison.

Ben Ali has already been convicted in absentia twice in Tunisians courts in recent weeks, for embezzlement and gun and drug smuggling. He fled to Saudi Arabia in January after a popular uprising against his autocratic, 23-year rule that sparked revolts around the Arab world.

In a third trial Thursday, Ben Ali was convicted of abuse of power and sentenced to 16 years in prison. He was accused in two different cases of intervening personally to secure property for his family members at prices well below market value.

His daughter Nesrine and her husband Sakhr Materi were also convicted and sentenced to eight years and 16 years in prison, respectively. All three were collectively ordered to pay about $100 million in damages and interest to the Tunisian state.

Ben Ali was not present for the trial. Saudi Arabia has not granted requests for his extradition.

Ben Ali faces more than 100 charges in civil and military cases, some of which could result in a death sentence, including his role in deaths during the uprisings. A Lebanese lawyer for Ben Ali has said his client is being unfairly targeted.

Ben Ali's nephew, Sofiene Ben Ali, appeared in court Thursday to face charges that his lawyers say are unfounded. He was sentenced to two years in prison and $1,400 in fines.

Corruption in Ben Ali's inner circle was one of the drivers of anger at his regime that fueled the protests earlier this year.

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