Tunisian forces fire teargas at anti-police brutality demo

Tunisian forces fire teargas at anti-police brutality protesters after death in custody
3 min read
13 June, 2021
Tunisian forces threw teargas at demonstrators protesting police violence after a man was killed in custody.
Anti-police brutality protests have erupted in Tunisia [Getty]

Police officers in the Tunisian capital threw teargas on youth protesting police brutality on Saturday, following the latest death of a man arrested by authorities.

In the working class district of Sidi Hassine, several dozen young people threw projectiles, including fireworks, at police near the station, an AFP reporter witnessed. Police responded with tear gas.

The district has been rocked by angry protests since Tuesday, when the man died after being arrested by police on suspicion of dealing drugs, according to local media.

His family has accused the police of having beaten him to death and the authorities have opened an investigation, but the interior ministry denied on Thursday that he had died from ill treatment following his arrest.

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Earlier on Saturday, several dozen leftwing activists and residents of working-class districts demonstrated in front of the interior ministry in protest at the death.

Among them were the mothers of three youths who have died over the past three years after having been arrested. They say they are campaigning to get justice for their children.

At the beginning of the demonstration, protesters also threw chairs at police on the avenue Bourguiba, in the city centre, and police arrested several people.

The authorities are also investigating a separate incident, which came to light after a video of what seems to be officers in civilian clothes beating a naked minor came to light.

Tunisians expressed their outrage on social media after the video was circulated.

The video shows the police stripping the youth's clothes in the Sijoumi suburb of Tunis, violently attacking him and dragging him along a public road. 

The attack was condemned by multiple groups and organisations, with the Tunisian General Labor Union calling for the police officers responsible for the attack to be held accountable. The Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights declared Tunisia to an "unsafe country", describing the scenes in the video as "brutal and inhumane".

On social media, Tunisians used the Arabic hashtag #learn_to_dress to spread the video and called for accountability for the police and a "break with the policy of impunity that caused the high level of violence before."

Tunisians also mocked the official statement released by the Tunisian Ministry of Interior, which claimed that the youth had taken his clothes off, despite contradictory evidence seen in the video. 

The beating of the young boy represents the second such of police brutality in the area in less than a week. 

This incident also took place in the Sidi Hassine district.

Ten years since a revolution that overthrew the police state of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia's security forces have yet to see meaningful reform.

Officers very rarely face prosecution for alleged abuses.

Tunisia's independent High Human Rights Commission said on Thursday that incidents such as those in Sidi Hassine risked undermining "confidence in the state and its institutions".