Information obtained by Mediapart indicates that Alliot-marie arrived in Tunisia on December 25th and left on January 2nd. The self-immolation of 26 year-old Mohamed Bouazizi in the town of Sidi Bouzid occurred on December 17th. The desperate act, which sparked an uprising that led to the revolution, followed the confiscation by police of Bouazizi's illegal street stall of fruit and vegetables. The unemployed graduate, who doused himself in petrol immediately after the event, died in a hospital near Tunis on January 4th.
His self-immolation was copied by other unemployed students in the central regions of Tunisia, which had been left on the wayside of the economic development for which Ben Ali was often lauded by the international community. Several of these occurred during Alliot-Marie's holidays in the country. She told France 2 that, during her stay, "there was no problem, there was no repression." However, on December 24th, the day before she arrived, two men were fatally wounded by police during demonstrations near to Sidi Bouzid.
By December 25th, the revolts had erupted into violent clashes in the towns of Sidi Bouzid, Menzel Bouzaiene, al-Ragab, Miknassi, Kairouan, Sfax and Ben Guerdane. The capital Tunis witnessed its first major demonstrations on December 27th. On December 28th, President Ben Ali warned those taking part in the widespread demonstrations, who he described as "extremists", that "the law will be rigorously applied against them".
"I had no privileged contact with him [Ben Ali]": Interview with Le Parisien, January 30th.
Alliot Marie told Le Parisien: "The last time that I saw the former president, face to face, was in 2006, during my functions as Minister of Defence." What is certain is that Alliot-Marie held a phone conversation with the dictator while holidaying in Tabarka, as confirmed to Mediapart by the French foreign ministry on February 15th.
Aziz Miled is "more a victim than anything else" of the Ben Ali regime: Interview on France 2 TV channel, February 2nd.
After her holiday in Tabarka and the use of Tunisian businessman Mohamed Aziz Miled's jet was revealed , the French foreign minister defended herself by suggesting that Miled had been despoiled by the Ben Ali regime. This was repeated by both her foreign ministry spokesmen, and by her partner Patrick Ollier, a French government minister responsible for relations with parliament, who accompanied her on the Tunisian holiday.
However, this hardly meets the truth. Miled, a millionaire entrepreneur who made his fortune in tourism, was a key figure in the country's economy. A rags-to-riches tycoon, he began his career as a travel agent to become head of a major tourism company, Tunisia Travel Service, and an airline, Nouvelair. He was a a member of the central committee of Ben Ali's ruling RCD party, and a signatory to an August 2010 public call for the re-election Ben Ali in elections that were due in 2014. He was a a member of Ben Ali's ‘re-election committee' from at least 1999. In 2009, he was decorated by Ben Ali with the ‘Grand Cordon of the Order of November 7th', the highest rank in pompous yearly civil decorations celebrating the strongman's arrival as president in November 1987. His ties with the former regime led to the freeze of his assets in Switzerland in January, although the measure has now been lifted.
While Miled began his business activities before the arrival in power of Ben Ali in 1987, he became one of the very few Tunisian entrepreneurs to have shared activities - in finance, tourism and aviation - with members of the Ben Ali clan, notably the Trabelsi, Materi, Chiboub and Mabrouk families. (For a description of the clan penned by the US ambassador to Tunisia, Robert F. Godec, and revealed by WikiLeaks, click here).