[Marxism] Tunisian opposition leader shot to death provoking anti-government riots across the country

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Feb 6 07:42:03 MST 2013


Tunisian opposition leader shot to death provoking anti-government riots 
across the country

By Associated Press

TUNIS, Tunisia — A Tunisian opposition leader critical of both the 
Islamist-led government and of violence by radical Muslims was gunned 
down as he left home Wednesday — the first assassination in 
post-revolutionary Tunisia.

The killing of Chokri Belaid, a 47-year-old lawyer, is likely to 
heighten tensions in the North African nation whose path from 
dictatorship to democracy has been seen as a model for the Arab world so 
far.

Police used tear gas to disperse the thousands of protesters that 
gathered in front of the Interior Ministry in the center of Tunis 
accusing the government of allowing the assassination to happen.

They were gathered on the same broad, tree-lined boulevard where weeks 
of anti-government protests two years ago ousted Tunisia’s long-time 
dictator — and the crowds Wednesday even chanted the same slogan: “The 
people want the fall of the regime!”

Like two years ago, police soon resorted to tear gas, sending people 
running for the shelter of nearby buildings yelling “No to Ennahda” and 
“Ghannouchi assassin,” referring to the moderate Islamist party and its 
leader that dominate the elected government.

Belaid had been a fierce critic of Ennahda, claiming that it turns a 
blind eye to violence perpetrated by extremists against other parties. 
His family said Belaid regularly received death threats — the most 
recent on Tuesday — but had refused to limit his high-profile activities.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khaled Tarrouch called the assassination a 
“terrorist act” and said the politician had been shot point-blank 
several times.

Elsewhere around the country, police responded to an assassination 
protest in the coastal city of Sousse with tear gas and Ennahda offices 
were attacked in several towns, according to Radio Mosaique and Radio 
Shems FM.

Belaid, a leading member of a leftist alliance of parties known as the 
Popular Front, was shot as he left his house in the capital, Tunis. He 
was taken to a nearby medical clinic, where he died, the state news 
agency TAP reported.

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, a member of a secular party in the 
governing coalition, called the assassination a threat against all 
Tunisians.

“Chokri Belaid was murdered this very day knowing I was going to be 
speaking to you,” he told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. 
“This is a letter being sent to us that we will refuse to open. We 
reject that message and we will continue to unmask the enemies of the 
revolution.”

Afterwards in a news conference, Marzouki said the assassination would 
not derail the country’s transition to democracy.

“All these destabilization attempts — and there will be others because 
for some the Tunisian model should not succeed — I can tell you that we 
will face the challenge and defeat it,” he said.

EU Parliament members held a moment of silence for Belaid.

Marzouki headed straight back to Tunis after speaking, having canceled a 
trip to Cairo to attend the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi told The Associated Press the slaying 
was an “ignoble crime” and urged authorities to bring the perpetrators 
to justice. He also offered his condolences to Belaid’s family and 
followers and called for a day of mourning.

Ghannouchi said those behind the slaying are “parties whose interests 
are threatened by the revolution and the democratic transition.”

Belaid was a high-profile opposition leader, yet the motive behind his 
killing is unclear. It comes as Tunisia is struggling to maintain 
stability and revive its economy after its longtime dictator was 
overthrown two years ago. That revolution set off revolts across the 
Arab world and unleashed new social and religious tensions in this 
Mediterranean nation of 10 million.

Tunisia’s Islamist-led government is also in negotiations with 
opposition parties to reshuffle the Cabinet and possibly expand the 
ruling coalition. Weeks of talks have yielded nothing, however, as the 
parties seem unable to reach an agreement over redistributing power.

Over the weekend, radicals disrupted a rally led by Belaid in northern 
Tunisia, part of a string of political meetings that were disrupted by 
gangs.

Belaid had been particularly outspoken against the so-called “Committees 
to Protect the Revolution,” which many accuse of being behind the 
violence. These groups are believed to be affiliated with the Ennahda 
Party and say it is their mission to seek out remnants of the old regime.

“There are groups inside Ennahda inciting violence,” Belaid told the 
Nessma TV channel the night before he was shot. “Rachid Ghannouchi 
considers the leagues to be the conscience of the nation, so the defense 
of the authors of violence is clear. All those who oppose Ennahda become 
the targets of violence.”

French President Francois Hollande condemned the killing and expressed 
worry over the rise of political violence in Tunisia.

“This murder deprives Tunisia of one of its most courageous and free 
voices,” Hollande said in a statement. “Belaid was committed throughout 
his political life to the fight for freedom, tolerance and the respect 
for human rights.”





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