The Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) charged that the government did not cooperate sufficiently to put down acts of violence that occurred yesterday in front of the UGTT’s headquarters.
High-ranking officials of the UGTT addressed yesterday’s incidents this afternoon in a press conference held at El Hana International Hotel in Tunis.
“Our main objective is in the country’s interest, and we welcome any criticism. We are not political competitors. We do not know why whenever we try to do our job, we get attacked harshly with rocks and batons,” said Houcine Abbassi, the secretary general of the UGTT. They [the ruling Ennahdha party and government’s members] perceive the UGTT as a threat that endangers their political interests. But we are here just to support them and not to threaten them.”
Abbassi expressed regret about yesterday’s attack, stating that the anniversary of Farhat Hached’s assassination was supposed to be a day of national commemoration. Hached was the UGTT’s founder and killed on December 5, 1952 by La Main Rouge - a French armed group that favored French occupation of Tunisia and targeted other independence leaders.
The UGTT boycotted today’s official commemoration of Hached’s assassination out of indignation with the government’s response to yesterday’s violence and instead paid a visit to Hached’s widow at her residence.
Abbassi denounced the statements of Najib Gharbi, an Ennahdha spokesperson, who accused the unionists of starting the violence. The secretary general insisted that the unionists were attacked by paid militias, which he claims were members of the League for the Protection of the Revolution. Abbassi added that such members were promised that any violent acts would go unpunished.
“The minister of interior did not cooperate with the UGTT. He did not send any police reinforcement to prevent the aggressors from attacking the unionists and the headquarters,” Abbassi said. “He sent them late, only after the militias finished their attack.”
In a live broadcast interview with Tunisian TV channel TNN last night, Mohamed Daada, a member in the executive bureau of the League for the Protection of the Revolution, denied all allegations that its members instigated yesterday’s scenes of violence in front of the UGTT headquarters.
“They [the protesters] came out of the headquarters bearing batons and gas bombs and threw rocks from the UGTT’s windows,” Daada said.