Tens of thousands of Tunisians turned out for the funeral of the assassinated opposition leader Chokri Belaid– a leftwing secularist and a staunch critic of the Islamist Ennahda Party government.
Many of those mourning Belaid expressed anger at the government, which they accuse of allowing a climate of political violence to spread unchecked.
On the capital’s central Habib Bourguiba Avenue, a flashpoint for protests, dozens of demonstrators fled as riot police fired tear gas. Sporadic clashes also flared on side streets.
Belaid, a prominent secular politician, was shot dead as he left his home Wednesday morning for work. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
In protest of the assassination, the Tunisian labor federation the UGTT called its first general strike since 1978.
Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra said that “[Belaid] has been a vocal critic of the government, saying that the outcome of the revolution in Tunisia was the growing power and influence of the Islamists. He’s been reiterating the same message of the Islamists being a threat to democracy in the country, and said that what the country needs to have instead is a democratic government which has been deeply entrenched in Tunisia to prevail.”
He said Belaid’s position earned him many opponents within the Tunisian political society – particularly among conservatives and Islamists.
Tendance Coatesy reports something that especially impressed me: Belaid, an attorney, defended a Tunisian TV station owner who was tried on charges of “undermining sacred values” because his station broadcast the great animated film “Persepolis,” in which a child imagines herself talking to God. The owner was found guilty and fined.
Aside from everything else, anyone who stood up for the right of people to see that wonderful film wins points with me.
Update: A few days before he was murdered, Belaid accused “Ennahda mercenaries and Salafists” of attacking a meeting of his political party.