06 February 2013 10:20 am | | 35


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Crowds in Tunis gather at El Jellaz cemetery to receive Chokri Belaid’s coffin Friday afternoon

Leftist politician and leader of the Popular Front coalition Chokri Belaid was shot to death Wednesday morning outside of his home.

Shortly after news of his assassination consumed the airwaves and social media, protesters took to the streets to express their indignation over Belaid’s assassination.

Over the course of Wednesday, demonstrators made their way to the Interior Ministry in Tunis’ main thoroughfare, Habib Bourguiba avenue, where they showed solidarity with Belaid and chanted slogans against the ruling Ennahdha party.

The situation turned violent Wednesday at around 2:30 p.m. with police resorting to tear gas and batons to empty out and lockdown Habib Bourguiba avenue. One police was killed during the unrest.

Protests spread across the country from Wednesday through Friday, and some of Ennahdha’s regional headquarters were attacked.

No arrests have been made thus far in connection to the assassination of Belaid. An investigation has been launched.

At the political level, the focus on Thursday centered on the Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali’s announcement Wednesday evening to form a government of technocrats without political affiliation.

The general strike took effect Friday, and Belaid’s funeral procession in downtown Tunisia began just before noon that day. The late opposition leader was not laid to rest until after 4 p.m. Protests and symbolic funerals took place across the country on Friday as well.

 

3:27 p.m. Besma Khalfaoui, wife of the late Chokri Belaid, met today with Afef Lakhdher, who was widowed last Wednesday when her husband Lofti Zar, a policeman, was fatally struck by a rock during protests. Khalfaoui told Mosaique FM radio that the meeting was a call for national reconciliation.

2:31 p.m. Ben Farhat told RTCI radio that the judge at today’s hearing into Belaid’s murder was “understanding” to his testimony.

12:31 p.m. (Tuesday, February 12) Tunisian journalist Sofiene Ben Farhat appeared today at the 13th office of the Court of First Instance in Tunis as a witness in Belaid’s assassination. Ben Farhat had earlier claimed that he received an SMS that included an alleged hit-list.

1:20 p.m. Zied El Heni, the journalist who accused an official in the interior ministry for planning the assassination of Belaid, was interrogated at the tribunal in Tunis as a witness in the case over Belaid’s death. El Heni gave “very serious information” concerning the assassination, including the names of current government members, said Faouzi Ben Mrad, head of El Heni’s defense team, to Mosaique FM radio.

11:42 a.m. (Monday, February 11) Besma Khalfaoui, wife of the late Belaid, is staging a protest this afternoon in front of the National Constituent Assembly to call for the resignation of the government and the acknowledgement on its part of its failures.

11:17 a.m. Mosaique FM reports that Zied El Heni’s court appearance is postponed to Monday, February 11. He will not be called in as the accused, according to the radio station, but rather as a witness in the investigation into his allegations that Interior Ministry official, Mehrez Zouari, organized a death squad to kill Belaid Wednesday.

9:22 p.m. Habib Ellouze, a member of Ennahdha’s Shura council, intervened on Nessma TV and denied Zied El Heni’s claims. He accused him of calumny and challenged him to cite his sources. According to Express FM radio, when leaving Nessma TV’s studio, El Hani was met by a police vehicle and handed a summons to appear Saturday, February 9, before the tribunal in Tunis.

7:57 p.m. Zied El Heni, a well-known Tunisian journalist and member of the Union of Journalists, accuses Mehrez Zouari, a high official at the Ministry of Interior, of setting up a death squad that is responsible for the death of Belaid. The accusation was made on Nessma TV, and El Heni challenged the attorney general to investigate the matter.

7:27 p.m. The National Union of Internal Security announced that a security agent, named Issam Dardouri, was attacked by two other policemen in downtown Tunis earlier and subsequently taken to the hospital.

7:04 p.m. Around 200 people were arrested today for looting local businesses in downtown Tunis, reported Express FM radio.

6:08 p.m. In a press conference this afternoon, Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali reaffirmed his intention to form a non-political technocratic government and said that it will be announced in a few days.

5:52 p.m. The streets of downtown Tunis are largely empty with few passersby. Police convoys can be seen periodically patrolling the area.

Police patrol downtown Tunis’ streets Friday afternoon

5:06 p.m. According Foreign Affairs Minister Rafik Abdessalem’s Facebook page, the Tunisian government has summoned France’s ambassador to Tunisia, François Gouyette, “to protest France’s intereference in the internal affairs of Tunisia.” It is in reference to recent comments by French Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who spoke about the necessity to support the “democratic” opposition in Tunisia against what he called “the rising Islamic fascism.”

5:00 p.m. There is heavy security presence in Habib Bourguiba avenue.

4:43 p.m. Thousands of Egyptian protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir square said an “absent prayer” for Belaid today.

4:26 p.m. Koranic verses are being recited as the late Belaid is laid to rest.

4:20 p.m. “Sleep, sleep my friend because the eyes of cowards won’t sleep,” Hammami continues.

4:18 p.m. “Chokri’s will is for Tunisia to unite,” says opposition politician Hammami.

4:17 p.m. Spokesperson of the Popular Front coalition, Hamma Hammami, is nearby the coffin inside the cemetery and speaking through a microphone to the crowd of supporters of Belaid.

3:50 p.m. Ennahdha supporters gather in front of the National Constituent Assembly.

A supporter of Belaid holds his picture amidst the crowd Friday afternoon

3:38 p.m. Sporadic clashes are reported around downtown Tunis.

3:27 p.m. Mosaique FM reports that a car full of knives and other bladed items was found in Habib Bourguiba avenue.

3:23 p.m. More army helicopters can be heard in downtown Tunis.

3:03 p.m. Al Mutawasit TV reports that Ennahdha founder Rachid Ghannouchi is in Tunisia contrary to earlier news that he had left the country yesterday.

2:48 p.m. Hundreds of protesters are trying to occupy Habib Bourguiba avenue as police attempt to disperse them with tear gas and move them back to Mohamed V avenue.

2:43 p.m. The crowd is now screaming, “The people want the fall of the government.”

2:39 p.m. The crowd in the cemetery receives Belaid’s coffin with applause and singing of the national anthem.

2:36 p.m. Belaid’s coffin has entered the cemetery, according to footage from Wataniya TV.

2:27 p.m. Black smoke can be seen rising from smoldering cars near the cemetery.

2:26 p.m. Nessma TV shows footage of police hitting one of the alleged thieves, who broke into the cars earlier outside the cemetery.

2:20 p.m. Belaid’s coffin is being transported on a military vehicle with the Tunisian flag draped over it.

2:01 p.m. Nessma TV reports over a million present at Belaid’s funeral.

Belaid’s coffin, transported on a military vehicle, trudges along in a sea of supporters Friday afternoon in downtown Tunis

1:59 p.m. Clashes still continue between security forces and some who are throwing stones at them. The number of people inside the cemetery  is decreasing, according to Wataniya TV.

1:56 p.m. Belaid’s coffin is in front of the cemetery’s main gate as tear gas still lingers in the air, reports Wataniya TV.

1:50 p.m. There is more footage of men breaking into cars outside El Jellaz cemetery on Nessma TV.

1:47 p.m. In Cairo’s Tahrir square, thousands of Egyptians are perfoming an “absent prayer” for Chokri Belaid’s soul on the “Friday of Dignity,” according to Express FM.

1:35 p.m. Some disturbances are occuring outside El Jellaz cemetery with some of those present throwing stones at police, who have responded with tear gas.

1:34 p.m. Additional footage shows people returning to their cars that they heard were broken into.

1:32 p.m. Tunisair confirms success of general strike.

Footage of looting outside El Jellaz cemetery from Nessma TV

1:27 p.m. Footage from Nessma TV show some masked men breaking into cars outside El Jellaz cemetery and stealing before running away. Wataniya TV confirms this as well.

1:19 p.m. The commentator on Al Wataniya TV say that the sheer number of attendees at El Jellaz cemetery may prevent Belaid’s coffin from entering the actual burial area.

1:15 p.m. Protesters at the cemetery are now crying out “O Ghannouchi, you coward.”

1:12 p.m. Al-Jazeera reports that security forces resort to tear gas in Gafsa.

1:07 p.m. Members of Chokri Belaid’s family are entering El Jellaz cemetery, and people are chanting the national anthem.

1:01 p.m. Habib Bourguiba avenue is filling up with thousands of protesters. See photo of @MoezBaz.

12:47 p.m. People are marching through Mohamed Ali square where the headquarters of the trade union, UGTT, is located towards the cementary.

12:44 p.m. Secretary General of opposition Al Joumhouri party, Maya Jribi, is present at the procession next to Belaid’s wife, Besma Khalfaoui.

Chokri Belaid’s wife, Besma Khalfaoui, signals ‘V’ for victory as opposition politician Maya Jribi stands behind her (Photo credit: @_LamiaS.).

12:41 p.m. EgyptAir cancels Tunisia flights due to general strike, reports Reuters.

12:30 p.m. Thousands are attending a symbolic funeral for Belaid in the major city of Sfax, reports Al Wataniya TV.

12:21 p.m. A march is taking place in the southern town of Gafsa, reports Al Wataniya TV.

12:19 p.m. See latest image from El Jellaz cementary tweeted by @anissakal.

12:14 p.m. Demonstrators in the western town of El Kef are holding a symbolic funeral for Belaid, reports Mosaique FM.

12:11 p.m. The army is escorting those marching in the funeral procession.

12:08 p.m. The procession is minutes away from reaching El Jellaz cementary.

12:04 p.m. Judges, present at the funeral procession, took off their white ties as a sign of respect for Belaid, reports Nessma TV.

12:00 p.m. More helicopters can be heard now in downtown Tunis.

11:51 a.m. Due to security reasons and the wishes of the Belaid’s family, no representatives from Ennahdha and Congress for the Republic (CPR) parties are present at the funeral procession.

Stores in downtown Tunis this morning are largely closed

11:49 a.m. Two helicopters can be heard flying over the funeral procession.

11:43 a.m. Belaid’s wife, Besma Khalfaoui, has just left the Cultural Center of Djebel Jelloud and is joining the march to the cementary.

11:38 a.m. There is a march in the central town Sidi Bouzid, and protesters are gathering in front of the local headquarters of trade union UGTT.

11:32 a.m. The funeral procession for Belaid has started from Djebel Jelloud towards the cementary where there are thousands others gathered. Syndicalists, lawyers, judges, and regular citizens are among the crowd.

11:28 a.m. Watch the latest scenes from in front of the headquarters of Belaid’s Watad party from Nessma TV.

11:20 a.m. Thousands of people are marching on foot to Djebel Jelloud, the birthplace of Belaid, from Barcelona Plaza in downtown Tunis.

10:50 a.m. Two local headquarters of Ennahdha in the coastal governorate of Nabeul have been set on fire, reports Mosaique FM.

9:15 a.m. (Friday, February 8) Residents woke up to a rainy day in Tunis. The general strike is affecting transportation, and all schools are shut down. There is confusion at the international Tunis-Carthage airport as most flights seem to be cancelled.

8:07 p.m. Minister of Interior Ali Laarayedh calls on the Tunisian people to remain calm tomorrow and refrain from any violence.

Security forces fire tear gas Wednesday afternoon in Habib Bourguiba avenue

7:15 p.m. Spokesperson of the Tunisian presidency Adnan Mansar announced that the presidential office is in favor of a government of national consensus, where all parties agree on its composition and plan of action. “We remain faithful to the provisional constitution and so far we did not receive the resignation of Mr. Hamadi Jebali or his government nor any details on the future government of technocrats,” he stated.

4:15 p.m. The French Embassy has announced that all French educational institutions will be closed Friday and Saturday.

3:30 p.m. The regional headquarters of Ennahdha was burned in the northwestern city of Siliana, reports Tunisian radio Shems FM.

2:45 p.m. Security forces have fired tear gas to disperse crowds on Habib Bourguiba avenue, and clashes have been reported.

2:00 p.m. Tunisia’s largest trade union, the UGTT, announced a general strike for tomorrow.

In the southern governorate of Gafsa, there have been further clashes between protesters and police.

12:00 p.m. Around 400 supporters of the Popular Front coalition in which Belaid held a leading role are gathered in front of the municipal theater in Habib Bourguiba avenue. Slogans, such as “Dégage (get out, in French)” and “The people want the overthrowal of the regime,” can be heard.

Popular Front supporters gather in downtown this afternoon

11:17 a.m. The Ennahdha party has officially refused Prime Minister Jebali’s call to dissolve the current government and put in its place a cabinet of technocrats following the assassination of Belaid, Zoubair Chhoudi, a member of the Shura council, has confirmed to Tunisia Live.

10:53 a.m. Members of the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) are holding a meeting at their headquarters to discuss whether to call for a general strike to protest the death of Belaid.

10:37 a.m. A general strike has been announced in Siliana to protest the death of Belaid, Ahmed Cheffii, assistant secretary general of the Regional Union of Siliana Workers, told Radio Express FM Thursday. Cheffii said the decision came after pressure from inhabitants of the region and local unions.

08:06 a.m. Ettakatol spokesperson Mohamed Bennour announces that Ettakatol party, party of the ruling Troïka, supports Prime Minister Jebali’s decision to form a government of technocrats.

08:02 a.m. (Thursday, February 7) The Facebook page of the Ministry of Interior announces the death of a policeman during yesterday’s violence. Lotfi Zar, 46, was struck on his chest and head by a rock when protecting some shops from looters in downtown Tunis.

Protesters make barricades of burning trash Wednesday afternoon

10:16 p.m. Rached Ghannouchi, leader of Ennahdha Party, announces on National TV that Ennahdha’s executive board is currently holding meetings to look at Prime Minister Jebali’s decision to form a government of technocrats.

8:00 p.m. Prime Minister Jebali announces on National TV his decision to form a government of technocrats, who do not have any political affiliation.

7:30 p.m. The family of Chokri Belaid announces that a ceremony of a state funeral will be held in Tunis on Friday at the Jellaz cemetery.

5:04 p.m. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned Belaid’s assassination in an official announcement today: “This crime has been committed in an environment of increasing political violence, including attacks on political parties’ premises and gatherings, and killing of another political leader in the South of Tunisia last October. I strongly condemn such acts, which — as Mr. Belaid himself said so clearly — threatens to seriously undermine the democratic transition in post-revolution Tunisia.”

4:54 p.m. Several hundred protestors are making their way up Bourguiba Avenue toward the Ministry of Interior despite the large police presence and tear gas.

4:30 p.m. Avenue Habib Bourguiba is quiet after security forces chased protestors from the area with tear gas and clubs. Barricades have been erected at entrances to the street and metro service is suspended in the area of the Barcelona Station. Tunisia Live reporters at the scene earlier estimated around 3000 demonstrators along the avenue.

3:00 p.m. Tear gas is fired near Tunisia Live’s office.

2:30 p.m. Police fire tear gas and use batons to empty out Habib Bourguiba avenue. Clashes between police and protesters.

1:00 p.m. The regional headquarters of Ennahdha were attacked in Sfax and Monastir, reported various news sources.

Governor of El Kef Abdelkader Trabelsi said that local Ennahdha headquarters was attacked and the office of Ennahdha lawyer Ridha Jebali was burnt. He condemned these attacks, which he claimed are leading the country “down a dark tunnel.”

12:15 p.m. Anis Chouaibi from Radio SB Zone told Tunisia Live that the protesters gathered in front of the governor’s office in Sidi Bouzid and burnt two or three tires. They are others in front of Ennahdha’s local headquarters.

Hedi Radhaoui, a local journalist in Gafsa, said that people stormed Ennahdha’s local headquarters. In addition, members of the Popular Front belonged as well as citizens are making their way to the local governor’s office.

Protesters are dispersed by tear gas near the emblematic clocktower in downtown Tunis

12:10 p.m. Some National Constituent Assembly members of the political opposition are threatening to resign in protest over Belaid’s death.

12:00 p.m. Security forces have deployed in front of the Interior Ministry. Some protesters are shaking the barbed wire fence surrrounding the ministry.

11:45 a.m. Many teachers are refusing to teach classes, and the composition of some of the multiple protests going on in downtown Tunis are largely made up of students. One such protest just passed by Tunisia Live’s office.

Teachers and students in the region of Jendouba are holding a strike.

11:30 a.m. In an interview on Tunisian radio Mosaique FM, Minister of Interior Ali Laarayedh said that two suspects were involved in the assassination. One shot Belaid and then took off on the motorcycle of an accomplice, who was waiting for him.

Protesters crowd next to the barbed wire as security forces in front of the Interior Ministry look on

11:15 a.m. It is reported that Belaid’s body has been transported from Cité Ennasr clinic to Charles Nicole hospital where it will undergo an autopsy.

11:10 a.m. The Popular Front coalition has joined the protest, which has continued to grow in size.

10:50 a.m. Another wave of young protesters are coming from Liberté street to join the mass of protesters in front of the Interior Ministry.

10:30 a.m.  “A country controlled by violence… It’s a huge shock for Tunisians. Where did all these weapons come from? Our people are peaceful. Once, at the time of Ben Ali, there was violence… He fell and so will this government,” said Hazar Trabelsi, a protester on Bourguiba avenue.

“What is this? All he owned was his words. How could that be faced by fire?” said another protester, Zayneb.

10:15 a.m. (Wednesday, February 6) Demonstrators in front of the Interior Ministry are expressing their solidarity with Belaid and chanting, “We are all Chokri,” “O Chokri, O martyr, we will follow your path,” and “Terrorism, bullets, Tunisians are fearless.”

Protesters fill Habib Bourguiba avenue Wednesday morning in protest of Belaid’s assassination

They are also crying anti-Ennahdha slogans, such as “Ghannouchi (Ennahdha founder), you are a predator,” “dégage,” “This will be the last day for this government,” and “Bring down the oppressor of the people, bring down the Brotherhood party.”

Racha Haffar, Elena Lesley, Zied Mhirsi, and Amira Masrour contributed reporting

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Comments (35)

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  1. Mohmed benamor says:

    now how does someone denies involvment in the assassination of Belaid when it was found the one of them is a Tunisian policeman, and the other “Kamel” works for interior ministry, acting like they do not know where Kamel is, claiming that he is on the run.It is about time that the Tunsian public wake up from a bad dream, and start doing something for the benefit of the Nation.

  2. Samir says:

    5.06 pm

    “The Tunisian government has summoned France’s ambassador to Tunisia” to protest the “French Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who spoke about the necessity to support the “Democratic” opposition in Tunisia against what he called “the rising Islamic fascism.””

    So the truth hurts, does it Mr. Abdessalem (son-in-law of Ghannouchi)?

    To Tunisialive: Many thanks for these updates – very helpful!

    • mark says:

      these people are so easily seen through…so cos this guy actually mentions the rising Islamic facism he gets calls to give account…..when o when will the people see this government is not for the majority of them….they (the government) need to be held accountable for yet another death. makes me want to scream

  3. April Parker says:

    إذا الشعب يوما أراد الحياة
    فلا بدّ أن يستجيب القدر
    ولا بد لليل أن ينجلي
    ولا بد للقيد أن ينكسر

    The last chorus from the Tunisian National Anthem…one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard…that no matter where I am or what I’m doing, I still cry to this day when I hear it or sing to myself. Inshallah oppression and injustice will vanish!

  4. Thanks for one’s marvelous posting! I quite enjoyed reading it, you can be a great author. I will make sure to bookmark your blog and will eventually come back sometime soon. I want to encourage you to definitely continue your great posts, have a nice afternoon!

  5. John says:

    This is a horrible thing to have happen. Unfortunately, democracy is a very messy process. Just look at the ups and downs in American history (or other democratic republics if you don’t like the American variety). Once the majority of people establish a core set of values the noisy minority will become less influential, but it takes time and diligence.

  6. peter herbert says:

    Why are you allowing your country to be destroyed? The tourists will not come. Number one industry will collapse Even more unemployment. Then the Islamist extremists will ferment more violence among the unemployed and Tunisia will become a failed State that no country will invest in Except of course Iran. Then you can watch the public executions on Ave Bourgibba.

    • Eileen Davis says:

      It seems it’s easy for some of us in the west to sit back and critique the courageous people of Tunisia who now again are in the streets risking their lives for an end to the violence caused by a militant minority, and for a just government. I have lived in Tunisia, love it, and will return. Tunisians are among the wisest, most honest I’ve encountered in my travels on this earth. Try to understand and support them, show intelligence and maturity.

  7. complicated says:

    you had religious fanatics causing havoc in Tunisia for how long now? Torching shrines with impunity and all that, I am yet to read of a single charge against them, what about the conviction. So if the government cannot control that violent minority, how can it actually govern the law-abiding majority?

  8. Christine says:

    It is so sad that this has happened in Tunisia and I’m very saddened to see the reality of the transition from dictatorship to democracy has become so difficult and divisive. These periods of transition are almost always times of trouble and strife and take time to settle down. I really hope there are no more killings – the Tunisian’s I’ve met have been lovely, modest and moderate people and my thoughts are with you all.

  9. Faith says:

    It’s time for the tunisian military to take over security. The interior ministry headed by Ennahda is failing to secure the country.

  10. Mohamed says:

    I think The assassination carried out by western intelligence services , they don’t like stability and democracy in Arabic World

    • Diana says:

      I’m not sure I would call what we have been living through in the last year as stability!

    • MMM says:

      Stop blaming the west for everything and take responsibity for your own situation.

      • Diana says:

        Well, that would be nice if we could MMM but unfortunately Tunisia is becoming the focus of all sorts of global chessplaying.

        • d says:

          The West? I’d much more easily believe a conspiracy theory about Qatar or Saudi being behind this, not the west.

          • April Parker says:

            I agree…that was Qatar that supplied the police with guns when those people were attacked in Siliana, not the West. I remember USA dontaing ambulances, giving aide, offering scholarships and programs for people to study in the US, etc.

    • peter herbert says:

      You stupid ignorant man It is because of idiots like you that the extremists can succeed

  11. mark says:

    ببالغ الأسى والحزن تلقينا خبر اغتيال زميلنا المغدور به المحامي الاستاذ شكري بلعيد، … إنا لله وإنا إليه راجعون

  12. Samir says:

    Abdelmajid Belaid, brother of Chokri is reported to have said, “I accuse Rached Ghannouchi of assassinating my brother”.

    Ghannouchi is responsible for all the present ills of Tunisia. He hijacked the revolution upon his return from 23 years in exile in the UK and things have been going downhill ever since. One only needs to see the video (on YouTube) of his private meeting with the Salafists to confirm what his agenda is.

    I hope Ghannouchi is made to return to exile (permanently – in his beloved Iran) and allow the Tunisian people to take charge of their own destiny without his malevolent interference.

    • Nasser says:

      Qatar, that’s where the monarch has been funding Brotherhood entities in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, Syria and many others. Its Doha where Ghannushi should be exiled.

      • Diana says:

        I’m not sure things are as simple as it all being one man’s fault. But for sure the govt needs to show some sort of leadership now, to avoid things falling into chaos worse than two years ago. Now there must be resignations to acknowledge that the security situation is a disaster. No constitution, no date for the elections, imams in mosques still being allowed to preach hate and venom from the pulpit, crime rife on the streets. But unfortunately the two women who resigned from their parties yesterday seem to be the only ones in the Assembly who are true patriots.

  13. Truthteller says:

    ‘They’ are trying to provoke people to react violently so that social instability ensues and they can justify a coup to preserve ‘order and security.’ It is imperative to find out who ‘they’ are.

    • Diana says:

      Perhaps, and if ‘they’ are billionaires from countries far from Tunisia the only way of fighting back is UNITY. The unity of religious and non-religious, this division in society is playing into their hands and is not typical of Tunisia.

      • Truthteller says:

        I completely agree with you, Diana. Tunisians must show the world and THEMSELVES that they cannot and will not be divided. …”We are all Chokri Belaid…”The January 14 revolution was about dignity and solidarity with all Tunisians–not about division and strife.

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