Police used batons and fired tear gas to break up a Martyrs' Day demonstration in Tunis on Monday. It was the worst violence the Tunisian capital has seen in months.
Tunis saw some of the worst violence in months on Monday as police used tear gas and batons to break up hundreds of anti-government protesters who had gathered to mark Martyrs' Day.
Demonstrations are banned on Habib Bourguiba Avenue, which was the focal point of the revolt that led to the ouster of longtime former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali last year. The moderate Islamist Ennahda Party, which won last October's parliamentary election, imposed the ban last month after local merchants complained that frequent protests on the street were disrupting their businesses.
Martyrs' Day commemorates a bloody crackdown by French troops on Tunisian protesters during the country's colonial era.
"The people want the fall of the regime," the protesters chanted, before police moved in to break up the rally. The chant was reminiscent of the demand protesters had voiced during last year's uprising, which set off a series of revolts in the region.
Plea for pateience
Hospital sources and the interior ministry said at least 15 civilians and eight police officers were injured in the clashes. At a separate demonstration outside the city center, the head of the Ennahda party called on Tunisians to be patient.
"Give the current government a chance. One has to be patient, it's the first elected government, they must be helped," Rached Ghannouchi said.
The country's president Moncef Marzouki criticized both the demonstrators and police for resorting to violence.
"Such a degree of violence is unacceptable," he said on national television. "I deeply regret that peaceful protesters were injured."
pfd/rc (Reuters, AFP)