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Tunisia in 'State of Siege' Following Opposition Killing

Labor leaders call for general strike in protest of the death of Chokri Belaid

Lauren McCauley, staff writer

One day after the "shocking" killing of opposition leader Chokri Belaid, Tunisia remains in a "state of siege" as labor leaders call for a general strike and continued street demonstrations against the government spark deep internal rifts.

In the North African state that gave birth to the Arab Spring uprisings, the main trade union federation, the UGTT, has called a national strike on Friday in protest of the killing of the leftist opposition politician. The federation also called on authorities to declare Friday a national day of mourning.

Ahead of the general strike, a correspondent from the French news channel BFMTV reports that country's lawyers, magistrates and judges are on strike today in reaction to the death.

Following the late Wednesday announcement by Tunisian Prime Minister Hamdi Jebali that the country would replace the fractious coalition government with a non-partisan cabinet, a senior official from his own Ennahda party announced early Thursday that they had rejected the plan.

Quoting Ennahda's vice-president, Abdelhamid Jelassi, Reuters reports that the prime minister had "not consulted [his] party," suggesting that the leading party was "deeply divided over the move."

Reflecting the political turmoil, the streets of Tunisia remain in a "state of siege," as described by French news magazine Le Point.

The unrest that erupted after the news of Belain's death continued on Thursday as protestors continue to take the streets, calling for the government's dissolution. Al Jazeera reports that—for the second day—police fired teargas to disperse the hundreds of people who had gathered near the Interior Ministry in Tunis. They continue:

Demonstrators were throwing stones and chanting slogans calling on Jebali to resign.[...]

Al Jazeera's Ahmed Janabi, reporting from Tunis, said that security reinforcements have arrived at the French embassy in the heart of Tunis, where protesters have gathered.

"Police continue to chase demonstrators away from the embassy's vicinity. Anti-riots forces chased demonstrators in the allays surrounding the embassy," said Janabi.

Hundreds of opposition protesters also clashed with police outside the governor's office in the central Tunisian town of Gafsa, an AFP news agency journalist reported.

International human rights group Amnesty International has released a statement calling for an urgent, "independent and impartial investigation" of Belaid's killing, saying the death has occurred in a time of "increasing polarization between political parties" where members of the opposition have previously reported threats, saying that the "authorities are not doing enough to protect them." The statement continues:

“The Tunisian authorities should be under no illusion that they can condemn the killing and move on. Only a fully independent and transparent investigation can help shed light on the circumstances of the killing of Chokri Belaid. There is a need, today more than ever, for justice to be done and to be seen to be done”, said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

“Two years after the ousting of former President Ben Ali, there is an increasing mistrust in the institutions that are supposed to protect human rights and Tunisians will not be satisfied with a sham investigation”.




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