Tunisia mourns victims of revolution

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TUNIS – Tunisia began national mourning on Friday for the dozens killed in its revolution, a week after the ouster of veteran ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, as new protests called for the old regime to be destroyed. Flags flew at half-mast and state television broadcast prayers from the Koran for the 78 people that officials say were killed when security forces cracked down on a wave of social protests that began last month.
Tunisia’s Religious Affairs Ministry said all imams would recite a prayer for “martyrs of the revolution” after Friday prayers in mosques. The new transitional government has declared three days of mourning. Ben Ali resigned abruptly and fled to Saudi Arabia on January 14 after 23 years in power. The new government has announced major democratic freedoms.
Hundreds of people rallied in the capital Tunis again Friday against the inclusion of old regime figures in the new government, calling for a new executive.
“You stole the wealth of the country but you’re not going to steal the revolution! Government resign! We will stay loyal to the blood of the martyrs!” protesters chanted as they marched down the city centre’s Avenue Bourguiba. Some waved Tunisian flags, others the flag of the main UGTT trade union. The UGTT, which played an instrumental role in the wave of protests that led to Ben Ali’s ouster, has refused to recognise the new government unveiled on Monday and pulled out its three ministerial appointees.
“RCD Out!” read one placard at the protest – a reference to the Ben Ali’s former ruling party, which has dominated Tunisian politics since independence from France in 1956 and is one of the most widely hated symbols of the regime.
One protester held up a sign reading “Our President” next to a photograph of Mohammed Bouazizi, the 26-year-old fruit vendor who inspired the uprising against Ben Ali after setting himself on fire in a protest last month. Committees set up by the new leadership to organise democratic elections, investigate the repressions of the old regime and probe corruption allegations against the Ben Ali family were to begin working later Friday. Also on Friday dissident journalist Taoufik Ben Brik, who lives in Paris, said he would run in the planned presidential election.
Moncef Marzouki, another dissident who returned to Tunisia this week after years of exile in Paris, has also said he wants to run. No date has been set for the elections but the government has said it expects to hold them within six months. Under the country’s constitution, elections should be held in less than two months.