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