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Death of wounded Tunisia man sparks new anti-gov’t rallies

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Tunisian protesters try to access the parliament building on Tuesday in Tunis. AFP

Death of wounded Tunisia man sparks new anti-gov’t rallies

Protesters clashed with police in the central Tunisian town of Sbeitla on January 25, after a young man hit by a teargas canister during clashes last week died in hospital.

Soldiers were deployed in front of the government buildings, the latest in a string of demonstrations to have rocked the North African nation this month.

Haykel Rachdi died on January 25 afternoon at a hospital in Sousse, hospital director Chawki Ben Hamouda said, without specifying the cause of his death.

Tunisia has seen a recent wave of nighttime clashes, with security forces carrying out mass arrests, amid an economic collapse exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown measures.

Activists responded with daytime protests against police repression, corruption and poverty, 10 years after the revolution that overthrew autocrat Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

Sbeitla, in the central region of Kasserine, had already seen clashes last week after rumours that Rachdi had died.

At that time, the interior ministry denied that he was dead and announced an investigation into the circumstances of his injuries.

Over 6,000 people have died from Covid-19 in Tunisia.

The government on January 23 extended a night-time curfew from 8 pm to 5 am, and banned gatherings until February 14.

Twenty-eight civil society groups, denouncing police repression, called for a rally on January 26 in front of parliament.

It comes as parliament is set to vote on new ministers appointed in a sweeping cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi.

President Kais Saied on January 25 criticised the absence of women in the new line-up and pointed out that the reshuffle had not been examined by the council of ministers, as the constitution demands.

Without naming names, Saied also said one of the proposed ministers was “involved in a corruption case” and that three others had conflicts of interest.

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