By Bernard Yaros | Feb 6 2013bourguiba avenue , Chokri Belaid , Ennahdha , main-featured , main-national-featured ,
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.Â 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.Â (Tuesday, February 12)Â 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.Â 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.Â 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.Â 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 HeniÂ challenged the attorney general to investigate the matter.
7:27 p.m.Â 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.Â Around 200 people were arrested today for looting local businesses in downtown Tunis, reported Express FM radio.
6:08 p.m.Â 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.Â The streets of downtown Tunis are largely empty with few passersby. Police convoys can be seen periodically patrolling the area.
5:06 p.m.Â According Foreign Affairs Minister Rafik Abdessalem’s Facebook page, the Tunisian government has summoned France’s ambassador to Tunisia, FranÃ§ois 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.Â 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.Â 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.Â “Chokri’s will is for Tunisia to unite,” says opposition politician Hammami.
4:17 p.m.Â 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.
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.Â More army helicopters can be heard in downtown Tunis.
3:03 p.m.Â 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.Â 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.Â Belaid’s coffin is being transported on a military vehicle with the Tunisian flag draped over it.
2:01 p.m.Â Nessma TV reports over a million present at Belaid’s funeral.
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 Â is decreasing, according to Wataniya TV.
1:56 p.m.Â 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.Â There is more footage of men breaking into cars outside El Jellaz cemetery on Nessma TV.
1:47 p.m.Â 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.Â Tunisair confirms success of general strike.
1:27 p.m.Â 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.Â Protesters at the cemetery are now crying out “O Ghannouchi, you coward.”
1:12 p.m.Â 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.
12:47 p.m.Â People are marching through Mohamed Ali square where the headquarters of the trade union, UGTT, is located towards the cementary.
12:44 p.m.Â Secretary General of opposition Al Joumhouri party, Maya Jribi, is present at the procession next to Belaid’s wife, Besma Khalfaoui.
12:41 p.m.Â EgyptAir cancels Tunisia flights due to general strike, reports Reuters.
12:30 p.m.Â Thousands are attending a symbolic funeral for Belaid in the major city of Sfax, reports Al Wataniya TV.
12:21 p.m.Â A march is taking place in the southern town of Gafsa, reports Al Wataniya TV.
12:14 p.m.Â Demonstrators in the western town of El Kef are holding a symbolic funeral for Belaid, reports Mosaique FM.
12:11 p.m.Â The army is escorting those marching in the funeral procession.
12:08 p.m.Â The procession is minutes away from reaching El Jellaz cementary.
12:04 p.m.Â 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.Â More helicopters can be heard now in downtown Tunis.
11:51 a.m.Â 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.
11:49 a.m. Two helicopters can be heard flying over the funeral procession.
11:43 a.m.Â 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.Â 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.Â 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, andÂ 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.
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.Â Security forces have fired tear gas to disperse crowds on Habib Bourguiba avenue, and clashes have been reported.
2:00 p.m.Â 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 “DÃ©gage (get out, in French)” and “The people want the overthrowal of the regime,” can be heard.
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 TroÃ¯ka, supports Prime Minister Jebali’s decision to form a government of technocrats.
08:02 a.m. (Thursday, February 7)Â 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 rockÂ when protecting some shops from looters in downtown Tunis.
10:16 p.m.Â 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.Â 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.Â The family of Chokri Belaid announces that a ceremony of a state funeral will be held in Tunis on Friday at the JellazÂ 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 Liveâ€™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.Â 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 â€œdown a dark tunnel.â€
12:15 p.m.Â Anis Chouaibi from Radio SB Zone toldÂ 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.
12:10 p.m.Â Some National Constituent Assembly members of the political opposition are threatening to resign in protest over Belaid’s death.
12:00 p.m.Â 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.Â 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.Â 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.
11:15 a.m. It is reported that Belaid’s body has been transported from CitÃ© Ennasr clinic to Charles Nicole hospital where it will undergo an autopsy.
11:10 a.m.Â 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 LibertÃ© street to join the mass of protesters in front of the Interior Ministry.
10:30 a.m. Â “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)Â 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.”
They are also crying anti-Ennahdha slogans, such as “Ghannouchi (Ennahdha founder), you are a predator,” “dÃ©gage,” “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