Published: Sun, January 14, 2018
World | By Paul Elliott

Tunisia: 778 arrested for protesting against austerity measures

Tunisia: 778 arrested for protesting against austerity measures

Protests are common in Tunisia in January, when people mark the anniversary of the revolution that ousted long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Friday was totally quiet, in Tunisia, after three nights of unrest.

Activists and the opposition have called for fresh protests on Sunday, the seventh anniversary of Ben Ali's overthrow.

Addressing protesters, campaign coordinator Wael Nawar vowed to organize a mass sit-in outside the parliament building in Tunis if the unpopular law was not swiftly revoked.

Authorities said Friday the number of people detained in the wave of violent protests had risen to almost 800, after a provincial town was hit by a night of unrest over the austerity measures. The event triggered demonstrations across the country, which eventually spread to others in the Arab world.

Hundreds of Tunisians took to the streets of the capital and the coastal city of Sfax on Friday, waving yellow cards and demanding that the government reverse austerity measures.

Police fired teargas to disperse crowds in Tunis and in Tebourba, a small town nearby where one protestor was killed in Monday, witnesses said.

Interior ministry spokesman Khlifa Chibani on Saturday said a total of 803 people suspected of taking part in acts of violence, theft and looting have been arrested this week. The organization said he died after a police vehicle ran him over twice but Tunisia's Ministry of Interior said that he had suffocated to death from tear gas because he had a chronic respiratory condition. "What happened had nothing to do with democracy and protests against price hikes". He said Thursday night's protests were "limited", suggesting the situation was calming down.

The Ennahda Islamist party, which governs in a coalition with secularists, called for the minimum monthly wage to be hiked to 357 dinars ($143) and for more aid for poor families, echoing calls by labour unions.

But frustration has grown among many Tunisians over economic stagnation and unemployment. The economy worsened since a vital tourism sector was almost wiped out by a wave of deadly militant attacks in 2015, and has yet to recover despite improved security.

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