The conviction in absentia of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Leila Trabelsi came after a day-long trial before the Tunis criminal court.

The couple fled to Saudi Arabia on January 14 after a month-long revolution that sparked a string of other uprisings in the Arab world.

Ben Ali has denied the charges against him and says his departure was part of the plot against him. He said on Monday he had been deceived into leaving the country and denied giving orders for security forces to shoot at protesters demanding that he step down.

A statement issued by his lawyers at the Tunisian court where he was tried in absentia said he had agreed to take a plane to Saudi Arabia to bring his family to safety and had planned to return immediately. The statement added that the aircraft left Saudi Arabia without him after the crew ignored his instructions.

The couple will also have to pay more than $65 million in fines.

The verdict on other charges, including illegal possession of drugs and weapons, will be pronounced on June 30.

Ben Ali is also due to face a separate trial in a military court on charges of manslaughter and conspiracy against the state.

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