August 15, 2011 / 12:01 PM / in 8 years

Tunisia police use tear gas to disperse protest

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisian security forces used tear gas and truncheons on Monday to disperse a crowd of protesters in the capital demanding that the government step down for failing to prosecute supporters of the ousted president.

Several hundred protesters tried to assemble in front of the Interior Ministry headquarters, on the central Bourguiba Avenue, said a Reuters reporter who was at the scene.

“We need a new revolution ... Nothing has changed,” one protester, Mounir Troudi, told Reuters. “This government should leave right now.”

Police, who were gathered in large numbers in front of the interior ministry, fired tear gas canisters and hit some of the protesters with truncheons, forcing them to scatter.

Tunisia electrified the Middle East in January when mass protests forced longstanding leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to flee to Saudi Arabia. Tunisia’s revolution became the template for the “Arab Spring” uprisings rippling across the region.

However, the caretaker authorities now running the North African country have struggled to restore stability. Protests and strikes break out regularly.

OUTPOURING OF ANGER

Some groups involved in toppling Ben Ali say he and his supporters should have been prosecuted more vigorously and they suspect some in government of sympathising with the ousted administration.

There was an outpouring of anger after the justice minister under Ben Ali was released from jail and a high-profile friend of the ex-president’s wife fled to Paris without facing trial.

Many Tunisians contrast that with Egypt, where former president Hosni Mubarak and his sons have been put on televised trial, appearing in the courtroom inside a cage.

Protesters in front of the interior ministry chanted: “Ben Ali is in Saudi Arabia and his clan is still here!”

Another protester, Meriam Nafti, said: “Look at Egypt. Mubarak is up before the court together with his sons and the symbols of his regime. Why is it that in Tunisia, the source of the revolution, these things don’t work?”

Witnesses in the city of Sfax, about 250 km (150 miles) south of Tunis, said about 1,000 protesters gathered to demand the resignation of interim prime minister Beji Caid Sebsi and his government.

Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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