Tunisia protests turn violent

Police clash with demonstrators who want interim-government reshuffle to exclude all members of former government.

    Tensions remain high in Tunisia as people continue to demonstrate against the interim government [AFP]

    Demonstrators have clashed with Tunisian police as peaceful protests demanding those loyal to the ousted government quit turned violent.

    It was not clear how the clashes near the government offices in the capital, Tunis, began on Wednesday, but the Reuters news agency said that witnesses saw riot police use tear gas on hundreds of demonstrators, mainly teenagers and young men who threw stones.

    The interim government has struggled to assert itself in the face of street protests demanding more sweeping changes after Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the long-time president, fled the country on January 14 in the face of a popular uprising over poverty, corruption and political repression.

    Tension has risen this week as many protesters continue demonstrations and strikes while the government, backed by the army, attempts to bring the country back to normal.

    Al Jazeera's Nazanine Moshiri, reporting from Tunis, said that hundreds of protesters, who appear to be from rural regions, have been camping out at the government compound to make their voices heard.

    "They want all members of the former ruling party out of the coalition government," she said.

    "Rocks were thrown at the police, tear gas and water cannons were used against protesters. There have been numerous injuries. It is calm right now but tension is growing [among people from these areas].

    "They say they are not going anywhere till the coalition government resigns. They do not want any members of Ben Ali's regime still in government," she said.

    Arrests wanted

    Meanwhile, the interim Tunisian justice minister has asked Interpol to help arrest Ben Ali, his wife Leila
    Trabelsi and other members of the family who fled the country during the uprising.

    Lazhar Karoui Chebbi said on Wednesday that Tunisia wanted to try Ben Ali and his family for "possessing [expropriated] property and transferring foreign currency abroad".

    He named seven members of Ben Ali's family in Tunisian custody but said that Imed Trabelsi, a nephew of Leila Trabelsi, and Sakher al-Materi, Ben Ali's son-in-law, had fled abroad.

    Chebbi said the name of Leila's brother Belhassan Trabelsi had also been presented to Interpol.

    He said six members of Ben Ali's presidential guard in custody would be tried for "conspiring against state security and inciting people against each other with weapons".

    On the same day, UNHCR representatives, human rights activists and lawyers are expected to arrive in Tunisia, accompanied by Tunisian exiled figures, including Abdelrahman Ayet Ahmed, a prominent opposition lawyer who is filing cases against Bin Ali's top officials.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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