News / Middle East

Top Tunisian Opposition Leader Murdered

Chokri Belaid, leader of the opposition Popular Front in Tunisia, pictured on Dec. 29, 2010.
Chokri Belaid, leader of the opposition Popular Front in Tunisia, pictured on Dec. 29, 2010.
Lisa Bryant
— Thousands of people took to Tunisia's streets Wednesday to protest the shooting death of Chokri Belaid, a leading opposition figure, amid fears that radicals are threatening to derail the country's democratic transition.

News reports say protesters jammed the main Habib Bourguiba boulevard in downtown Tunis, yelling "shame, shame" as they denounced the killing of leftist politician. The headquarters of the moderate, Islamist Ennahda party, which rules in an uneasy coalition with secularists, was attacked and set ablaze.

Other demonstrations are being staged in towns around Tunisia, in scenes reminiscent of the country's largely peaceful revolution two years ago. 

One of the leaders of the opposition Popular Front, Belaid was shot dead outside his Tunis home just hours before. His killing has sparked shock and outrage, and fears that religious extremists are trying to hijack Tunisia's transition to democracy.

Chokri Belaid

  • Lawyer and human rights activist
  • Critical of Islamist-led government
  • Headed small secular opposition party
  • Leading member of leftist Popular Front coalition
  • Born in 1964

Speaking before the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki said his country has many enemies who want the revolution to fail. He denounced the "odious assassination" of Belaid, who he described as an old friend. He said Tunisia would reject the message sent by what he called the "enemies of the revolution."

An array of politicians have similarly denounced Belaid's death, including the ruling Islamist Ennahda Party. The party chief, Rached Ghannouchi, condemned the murder, saying the killers wanted a "bloodbath" in Tunisia.

Later Wednesday, the Popular Front said it was pulling out of the constituent assembly charged with writing a constitution. A spokesman said the group would also call for a general strike to protest Belaid's murder.

 
 


  • Supporters of the ruling Ennahda party shout slogans in support of the party during a demonstration in Tunis, Feb. 9, 2013.
  • A tear gas canister flies in the air as thousands of Tunisians gathered at el Jallez cemetery to attend the funeral of slain opposition leader Chokri Belaid, Feb. 8, 2013.
  • A Tunisian woman walks past burning cars during clashes with the police near the funeral of slain opposition leader Chokri Belaid, Feb. 8, 2013.
  • Riot police clash with protesters next to the cemetery where thousands of Tunisians gathered to attend the funeral of slain opposition leader Chokri Belaid, near Tunis, Feb. 8, 2013.
  • Mourners carry the coffin of opposition leader Chokri Belaid during his funeral procession, Tunis, Tunisia, Feb. 8, 2013.
  • A sticker with an image of the late opposition leader Chokri Belaid is seen as a woman mourns during his funeral procession, Tunis, Feb. 8, 2013.
  • Mourners carry the coffin of slain opposition leader Chokri Belaid during his funeral procession towards El-Jellaz cemetary, Tunis, Feb. 8, 2013.
  • Tunisians accompany the ambulance carrying the body of opposition leader Chokri Belaid, from his home to his father's home, Tunis, Feb. 7, 2013.
  • A woman cries over the coffin of opposition leader Chokri Belaid, in Tunis, Feb. 7, 2013.
  • Protesters gather on Tunis 'main avenue after a Tunisian opposition leader critical of the Islamist-led government was gunned down as he left home, Feb.6, 2013.
  • A protester gestures to police during clashes in Tunis, Feb. 6, 2013.
  • The body of Chokri Belaid, a prominent Tunisian opposition politician, is carried into an ambulance after he was shot, in Tunis Feb. 6, 2013.
  • Basma Chokri, the wife of assassinated prominent Tunisian opposition politician Chokri Belaid, mourns in Tunis Feb. 6, 2013.

Party criticized

But some critics, including members of his family, are openly accusing Ennahda of being responsible for his death. Belaid himself had strongly criticized Ennahda of failing to rein in extremist members and of threatening the opposition.

Those accusations were echoed Wednesday by one of Belaid friends Moctar Jelali, interviewed by Radio France International.

Jelali said his assassination was part of a larger plot by radicals to sow disorder. He accused the government of inertia.

Considered the birthplace of the larger Arab Spring uprising, Tunisia has managed to avoid the widespread bloodshed that has coursed through other revolts such as Libya and Syria.

But the North African country is grappling with rising violence, political clashes and high unemployment, among other problems.

You May Like

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid