Tunisia's Ben Ali sentenced over protesters' deaths

Image caption,
Tunisia's ex-president Ben Ali is in exile in Saudi Arabia

Tunisia's ousted president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali has been given a life sentence in absentia by a military court over the killing of protesters in the country's revolution last year.

A separate court also jailed him for 20 years for inciting violence and murder.

The exiled ex-leader faces a number of other trials; he has also already been sentenced to dozens of years in jail.

The sentences come as Tunisia's new government seeks to quell rioting across the country.

On Tuesday Fehmi al-Aouini, a young Tunisian shot in the head during three days of violence, died of his wounds in hospital.

The government imposed an overnight curfew in eight areas following the riots, which were sparked by an art exhibition deemed offensive to Islam and saw several police stations set on fire.

It blamed ultra-conservative Islamists known as Salafists for the unrest, which correspondents say is the worst since Tunisians overthrew Ben Ali early last year.

However the Salafists deny involvement.

Extradition request

Prosecutors had sought the death penalty for Ben Ali over the killing of 22 people while trying to put down revolts in the central cities of Thala and Kasserine, AFP news agency reported.

Ben Ali's former Interior Minister, Rafik Belhaj Kacem, was given 12 years.

In the other case, the charges of incitement to violence and murder related to an incident in the town of Ouardanine last January, when four men were shot trying to stop the president's nephew fleeing Tunisia.

Ben Ali is now in exile in Saudi Arabia, where fled with his wife in January 2011 after weeks of protests against his rule of more than 20 years

Despite a request from Tunisia's government for the ex-president to be extradited to stand trial, the Saudis have refused to send him back.