Clashes break out in Tunisia after protester dies of injuries

Angry residents fired projectiles at police and blocked roads in the town of Sbeitla after the death of the protester.

Mothers in the Tunisian capital have accused authorities of arbitrarily arresting their children in response to the unrest, with rights groups saying at least 1,000 people have been arrested [Fethi Belaid/AFP]
Mothers in the Tunisian capital have accused authorities of arbitrarily arresting their children in response to the unrest, with rights groups saying at least 1,000 people have been arrested [Fethi Belaid/AFP]

A Tunisian protester injured during clashes with police has died in hospital, state media reported, leading to more violent confrontations between demonstrators and security services in the town of Sbeitla about three hours south of the capital Tunis.

Haykel Rachdi’s family told local media he had been struck by a tear gas canister after joining the protests that erupted this month on the anniversary of Tunisia’s 2011 revolution that introduced democracy in the North African nation.

The Public Prosecutor’s office in Kasserine, the biggest city near Sbeitla, has ordered an autopsy to determine the cause of Rachdi’s death, the state news agency, TAP, said on Monday.

After news of his death, a group of young men tried to storm and torch the Sbeitla police station, leading to more clashes, TAP reported.

The incident raised the temperature ahead of demonstrations over inequality and police abuses planned on Tuesday in Tunis and other cities and backed by rights groups.

Tunisia has seen a recent wave of nighttime clashes, with security forces carrying out mass arrests, as protesters angry at the failure of successive governments to deliver on the promise of the 2011 revolution amid economic collapse exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown measures.

The government on Saturday extended a night-time curfew from 8pm to 5am, and banned gatherings until February 14.

Denouncing police repression

Activists responded with daytime protests against police repression, corruption and poverty, 10 years after the revolution that overthrew long-time ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Sbeitla, in the central region of Kasserine, had already seen clashes last week after rumours that Rachdi had died. At that time, the interior ministry denied that he was dead and announced an investigation into the circumstances of his injuries.

Mothers in the Tunisian capital have accused authorities of arbitrarily arresting their children in response to the unrest, with rights groups saying at least 1,000 people have been arrested.

Twenty-eight civil society groups, denouncing police repression, called for a rally on Tuesday in front of parliament.

It comes as parliament is set to vote on new ministers appointed in a sweeping cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi.

President Kais Saied on Monday criticised the absence of women in the new line-up and pointed out that the reshuffle had not been examined by the council of ministers, as the constitution demands.

Without naming names, Saied also said one of the proposed ministers was “involved in a corruption case” and that three others had conflicts of interest.

Source: News Agencies

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