Tunis: Tunisia on Saturday marks the flight into
exile a year ago of the north African country's despot Zine El
Abidine Ben Ali after weeks of a popular uprising that gave
birth to the Arab Spring.
The revolution, which led to a peaceful election in
October, inspired reform movements that felled long-standing
autocrats Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.
Leaders from Tunisia's neighbours as well as other Arab
countries are expected to take part in the weekend
Among the most prominent guests Tunisia's democratically
elected leaders will host today, Algerian President Abdelaziz
Bouteflika -- who was a minister in his country's first
post-independence government half a century ago -- has so far
weathered growing social discontent.
The emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, seen
as one of the main sponsors of the Arab Spring, is also
expected in the Tunisian capital.
Foreign Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani will represent
Morocco, where King Mohamed VI introduced reforms curbing his
near absolute powers to nip growing Tunisian-inspired street
protests in the bud.
Weeks after Ben Ali hurriedly flew out of Tunisia, a
rebellion started in neighbouring Libya, eventually toppling
The head of Libya's new National Transitional Council,
Mustafa Abdel Jalil, was expected for the celebrations, for
which no detailed programme has yet been released.
Thousands of Tunisians celebrated the uprising's first
anniversary on December 17, the day 26-year-old fruit seller
Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in a protest act that
sparked the revolt.
Ben Ali has been convicted of economic and other crimes by
Tunisian courts and was granted exile in Saudi Arabia after
his plane was denied permission to land in France.
According to the new authorities in Tunisia, Saudi Arabia
has twice ignored extradition requests for Ben Ali, who faces
an avalanche of trials if he returns.
Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki will pardon more than
1,000 prisoners on today's anniversary.
First Published: Saturday, January 14, 2012, 23:09