Tunisia's exiled Ben Ali can return if sick: PM

A picture released in April 1998 of Tunisia's ousted president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali posing for an official picture in front of the Tunisian flag

Tunisia's prime minister said exiled former autocrat Zine el Abidine Ben Ali would be allowed to return home if he was critically ill as reported by his lawyer.

"I will give my green light for his return. It's a humanitarian case. If he's ill as rumoured, he can return to his country like any other Tunisian," Youssef Chahed said late Thursday on Hannibal TV.

"If he wants to return to be buried here, I give my green light," added Chahed, who is also a candidate in Tunisia's presidential election on Sunday.

Ben Ali's lawyer, Mounir ben Salha, said hours earlier that Tunisia's leader who was ousted in a 2011 revolt when he fled to Saudi Arabia following two decades of iron-fisted rule, was "in critical condition".

"He's not dead but the condition of his health is bad. He has left hospital and is being treated at home. His condition is stable," the lawyer said on Oxygene FM radio.

Tunisian courts have condemned Ben Ali, 83, in absentia to several prison sentences, including life terms, for abuse of power, graft and involuntary homicide.