BEIRUT — Ousted Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who is facing trial in absentia, said on Monday that he had been duped into leaving his country and had not simply abandoned his post.
“I did not abandon my post as president nor did I flee Tunisia, as some media have falsely reported,” read a statement released by Ben Ali’s attorney, Akram Azoury.
Azoury told AFP that Ben Ali’s statement did not mean he still considered himself president.
Ben Ali in his statement said he had been advised by his security chief Ali Al-Soryati to leave Tunisia on January 14 because of fears of an assassination plot.
He said he had bundled his family onto a plane which took them to Saudi Arabia and had explicity instructed the pilot to wait for him at Jeddah airport.
“But after arriving in Jeddah the plane turned around and headed back to Tunis, disobeying my instructions,” he said.
“I was duped into leaving Tunis,” he added, saying that his departure was part of a plot against his presidency.
Ben Ali, the first leader toppled in a wave of Arab uprisings, was put on trial in absentia in Tunis on Monday for charges including fraud and theft.
He has denied all charges.