Sunday, 22 July, 2018

Tunisia: 778 arrested for protesting against austerity measures

Anti-Austerity Protests Simmer in Tunisia More Protests Expected in Tunisia after Mass Arrests
Kenny Thornton | 14 January, 2018, 03:16

Tunisian authorities say the number of people detained in the wave of violent protests to sweep the country since Monday has risen to almost 800.

The source, speaking to Reuters, did not provide more details, but it comes as Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi met with political parties, unions and employers to discuss ways of overcoming the unrest triggered by austerity measures aimed at cutting a budget deficit.

Friday's demonstrations came ahead of the seventh anniversary of Ben Ali's ouster on January 14, 2011.

Tunisian police have arrested 328 people after four nights of anti-austerity protests, Interior Ministry spokesman Col.

On Saturday, several hundred protesters took to the streets in Sidi Bouzid, a central town where the 2011 uprising erupted after a young man set himself on fire following the confiscation of his fruit cart by policemen demanding bribes.

The protests have broken out in response to an unpopular new Finance Act, which saw price hikes and Value-Added Tax increases imposed from January 1.

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Over 800 people have been arrested during the unrest, according to the interior ministry.

While the Interior Ministry Spokesman Khelifa Chibani has said "what is happening is crime, not protests", campaigners accuse the government of an "indiscriminate" crackdown.

Police fired teargas to disperse crowds in Tunis and in Tebourba, a small town nearby where one protestor was killed in Monday, witnesses said. The Tunisian people have become increasingly angry since the government said it would increase the price of petrol, some goods, and taxes on cars, phone calls, the internet, hotel accommodation and other items from January 1.

The Ennahda Islamist party, which governs in a coalition with secularists, called for the minimum monthly wage to be hiked to 357 dinars ($143) and for more aid for poor families, echoing calls by labour unions.

But Tunisia has had nine governments since Ben Ali's overthrow, none of which have been able to resolve deep-rooted economic problems. Two major militant attacks in 2015 also greatly damaged the country's tourism industry, which made up eight percent of gross domestic product.

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