Thousands have taken to the streets in Tunisia’s capital to participate in the funeral march for slain opposition politician Mohammed Brahmi. Police fired tear gas on crowds gathering outside parliament.
Mourners came out in the thousands in Tunis on Saturday to attend the funeral of the assassinated Brahmi. The protesters chanted as they followed the body of the slain politician.
“Down with the party of the Brotherhood,” they chanted, referring to the ruling Ennahda Party’s affiliation with the regional Muslim Brotherhood religious group.
“The people demand the fall of the regime.”
Police fire tear gas
Many of the marchers then headed to the parliament building, demanding the dissolution of the assembly. Their chants were met with police firing tear gas at them. The protesters responded by throwing stones back.
Also outside parliament was a counter-demonstration by hundreds of Islamists, who chanted slogans condemning what they see as an attempted coup against democracy.
Several were injured in the raucous demonstrations outside parliament, and the Interior Ministry has called upon the crowds to be calm.
The sense of tension was also heightened by an early morning car bombing in Tunis. None were injured, but the blast was the latest reflection of the growing unease in the North African country, where two opposition politicians have been killed in the past six months. The same weapon was apparently used in both murders, according to the Interior Ministry.
Brahmi’s assassination on Thursday has deepened the distrust between the ruling coalition led by moderate Islamists and the opposition. Government opponents are demanding the dissolution of government because of the failure to rein in Islamist extremists, turn around the economy and manage the transition to democracy.
The coffin was taken by military vehicle, draped in a Tunisian flag, through the city to the Jellaz cemetery, where fellow assassinated politician Chokri Belaid was also laid to rest.
Government names suspect
The Interior Ministry named Boubakr Hakim as Brahmi’s assassin, referring to physical evidence and witnesses. Hakim is known to be a militant and weapons smuggler and is part of the same al Qaeda-linked cell that murdered Chokri Belaid in February of this year.
On Thursday, Hakim allegedly shot Brahmi 14 times outside the politician’s house in front of his family, using the same 9mm semi-automatic handgun used to kill Belaid.
The murder sparked anti-government demonstrations around Tunisia, with protesters blaming the ruling moderate Islamists for failing to secure the country. The protests themselves have also turned deadly. A 48-year-old political activist from Brahmi’s left coalition, for example, died Friday after being hit in the head by a tear gas canister during a protest outside a police station in the southern town of Gafsa.
Demonstrators have also clashed with police in the cities of Al-Kef and Sidi Bouzid.
In search of democracy
In January 2011, Tunisians overthrew President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, an iron-fisted dictator who had ruled the country for 23 years. This led to pro-democracy demonstrations. In the subsequent elections, the long-repressed moderate Islamist Ennahda dominated the vote and now rules in coalition with two secular parties.
It was believed that Tunisia was establishing itself as a democracy.
Two political assassinations and the faltering economy, however, have begun to make many question the legitimacy of the elected government.
tm/slk (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)