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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population 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.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid