Tunisian opposition leader murdered, sparks nationwide protests

A picture taken on 29 December 2010 shows Tunisian lawyer and human rights activist Choukri Belaid speaking as he attends a meeting along with other lawyers in Tunis to express their solidarity with the residents of Sidi Bouzid. Belaid, a senior leader in Tunisia’s left-leaning opposition Democratic Patriots party, was shot dead on 6 February 2013 in the morning, his brother told AFP. AFP PHOTO/FETHI BELAID
Published Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Updated 4:12pm: The murder of Tunisian opposition leader Chokri Belaid Wednesday morning sparked nationwide protests.

Belaid was shot dead a day after he had said on Tunisian Nessma TV that the leading Islamist party Ennahda had “given the green light for political assassinations.”

Eight thousand protesters demonstrated outside the interior ministry in central Tunis on Wednesday chanting for the government to fall and for a second revolution.

Police were said to be firing warning shots and tear gas at demonstrators.
Protesters also stormed the Ennahda headquarters in Sidi Bouzid where 4,000 protesters were said to have gathered.
Thousands more demonstrated in cities including Mahdia and Sousse and protesters reportedly set fire to Ennahda offices in Monastir, a city on the central coast of Tunisia.
Belaid, a left-leaning politician and a harsh critic of the Tunisian government, was shot dead, with four bullets to his head and his chest, Wednesday morning near his car as he left his home in Tunis, his family said.

The video shows the blood stained street next to his car as the ambulances close the doors behind the politician.

“My brother was assassinated. I am desperate and depressed,” Abdelmajid Belaid, brother of the dead leader, told AFP.

“I accuse … [Ennahda leader] Rached Ghannouchi of assassinating my brother,” he said.
Ennahda is an Islamist party currently leading the Tunisian government in a coalition with two other parties.

Belaid was seen as the party’s top critic.

Ghannouchi on Wednesday rejected the accusation and denounced the murder of the secular opposition leader, saying the killers wanted a “bloodbath” in Tunisia.

“They want a bloodbath but they won’t succeed” in creating one, Ghannouchi, whose party has been blamed for the murder, told AFP.

“We can only condemn this cowardly act, which is aimed at (undermining) the revolution and the stability of Tunisia,” he added.

Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali denounced Wednesday the murder of Belaid as an “act of terrorism” against Tunisia.

“This is a criminal act, an act of terrorism not only against Belaid but against the whole of Tunisia,” Jebali from the ruling Islamist Ennahda party told FM Radio Mosaique, promising to pursue all efforts to “immediately” arrest the murderer.

Tunisia President Moncef Marzouki denounced “the odious assassination” of his friend and opposition leader Chokri Belaid in a speech in front of Europe’s politicians Wednesday.

“This odious assassination of a political leader who I knew well and who was my friend … is a threat, it is a letter sent that will not be received.”

“We refuse this message and we will continue to unmask the enemies of the revolution,” he said though Tunisia’s path was “paved with hurdles,” including “orchestrated verbal violence, burnt preachers” and the murder of Belaid.

Chokri Belaid was one of the top six “worldwide trending topics” on Twitter at the time of the writing of this article.
Many are calling this the first political assassination since the revolution.
Belaid’s party was part of a coalition of parties which has emerged in opposition to the Tunisia government.

The country is witnessing a rise in violence fed by political and social discontent more than two years after the toppling of the former dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

Several opposition parties and trade unions have accused the pro-Islamists of orchestrating clashes or attacks against them.
( Al-Akhbar, AFP)

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