Protests against police abuse in the Tunisian capital have spread to several other working-class districts more than a week after violence broke out in the Sidi Hassine neighbourhood over the death of a man in police custody.
The protesters gathered in Ettadhamen and Intilaka – among the capital’s poorest districts – late on Wednesday, blocked roads, burned tyres and threw stones at police, as officers chased demonstrators and fired tear gas.
Last week, a video of police stripping and beating a young man shared on social media triggered widespread anger among the public. A few days later the death of a man in police custody sparked protests in Sidi Hassine, in the outskirts of Tunis.
The man was arrested on suspicion of dealing drugs but the family accused the police of beating him to death. Tunisia’s Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, who is also the interim interior minister, has denied the allegation.
On Tuesday, hundreds gathered in Sidi Hassine with slogans against the government and called on officials to stop police abuse and punish those involved.
They chanted: “Freedom, freedom, the police state is over.”
The United Nations human rights office in Tunisia said on Monday it was concerned about repeated allegations of serious violations by the Tunisian police amid violent protests.
Forty-three organisations, including the journalists’ syndicate, unions, the lawyers’ syndicate and the Human Rights League, called for a massive national protest on Friday to end what they say is police impunity.
They said that they filed a lawsuit against Prime Minister Mechichi.
More than 10 years after the Arab Spring revolutionary protests against poverty, injustice and a police state, Tunisia has made progress towards democracy but its economic problems have worsened, which has led to repeated protests.
During the most recent January protests, police arrested more than 2,000 people, most of them minors.
Human rights organisations said that hundreds of them were subjected to ill-treatment and torture.
Human rights activists said police abuses have threatened to undermine the democratic gains made since the overthrow of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s repressive regime in 2011.