Mon, May 09, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Tunis overnight curfew imposed

VENTING ANGER:The curfew comes after people protested against the transitional government late last week and reports of further unrest in the outskirts of the capital

AFP, TUNIS

Tunisians protestors run away from police in the center of Tunis on Friday during a demonstration organized by youths denouncing the transitional government and calling for “a new revolution.”

Photo: AFP

Tunisia on Saturday declared an overnight curfew in and around the capital after several days of unrest there.

The curfew will run from 9pm to 5am until further notice, the defense and interior ministries said in a joint statement cited on television and by the TAP news agency. The measure was necessary because of “violence and pillaging” on the outskirts of Tunis over the past few days, said the statement.

One resident said that youths had ransacked and pillaged a major electrical goods store and a pharmacy and set fire to several vehicles in the deprived Ethadamen district.

The district was at the center of protests in January during the uprising that led to the fall of former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

There have also been unconfirmed report of unrest in the southern city of Gabes and in Sidi Bouzid, in the center of the -country, where the Tunisian uprising started back in December.

In Tunis itself, a series of protests against the transitional government on Thursday and Friday were brutally put down by the security forces.

The interior ministry apologized on Friday after police broke up the protests using tear gas, truncheons and iron bars, attacking protesters and journalists covering the event indiscriminately.

The National Union of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT) and a Paris-based media watchdog also denounced the police action: The SNJT said 15 local and international media professionals had been assaulted by the police.

Late on Saturday in Tunis, there was no traffic moving on the Avenue Bourguiba, where the clashes took place. Police had set up barbed wire outside the offices of the interior ministry, a journalist said.

The protests in Tunis were by supporters of former Tunisian -interior minister Farhat Rajhi.

Rajhi, in a video interview posted on Facebook on Wednesday, said some members of the ruling elite still in power were preparing a military coup should the Islamist Ennahda (Renaissance) win the July 24 election.

“Since independence, political life has been dominated by the people of the Tunisian Sahel,” such as former president Ben Ali, toppled in January, Rajhi said.

Despite Ben Ali having been toppled from power these people are not ready to cede power, he said. “If the results of the forthcoming elections go against their interests, there will be a military coup.”

Although he subsequently backed off from his remarks, interim Tunisian President Foued Mebazaa announced on Saturday that Rajhih had been sacked as head of the High Commission for Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties.

Rajhi served briefly as interior minister under the interim -administration, appointed on Jan. 27, two weeks after Ben Ali’s downfall.

As soon as he took office, Rajhi had fired dozens of top officials in the interior ministry, a symbol of Ben Ali’s repressive regime.

Only days after his appointment, hundreds of police and supporters of Ben Ali stormed the interior ministry threatening to kill him.

His plain-speaking in television appearances earned him the respect of many Tunisians, to judge from the response in Internet chatrooms and blogs.

His abolition in March of Tunisia’s feared political police, who had rounded up thousands of political dissidents, was also popular.

However, later the same month, Mebazaa sacked him as interior minister.

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