By Ali Al-Bassam
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
TUNIS, Tunisia — Chokri Belaid, a leading Tunisian opposition figure, and also, one of the leaders of the Popular Front coalition, was shot dead today as he was leaving his home in Tunis on Wednesday. A bullet had struck his neck and another hit his head.
His brother confirmed that he was pronounced dead at a Tunis hospital. “My brother was assassinated. I am desperate and depressed,” said Abdelmajid Belaid.
In a statement made after Belaid’s murder, the Unified Democratic Nationalist party confirmed that “Chokri Belaid was targeted as he left his house in the capital.” It is unclear what the motive for Belaid’s assassination was.
Belaid, the leader of the left-leaning opposition Democratic Patriots party, was a vocal critic of the moderate Islamist party Ennahda, who currently controls much of the Tunisian government.
Belaid, a lawyer and human rights activist, was a constant critic of the government, calling it a puppet to the small yet wealthy Gulf state of Qatar. Ennahda denied any involvement in the assassination.
Government spokesman Samir Dilou commented on Belaid’s assassination, calling it an “odious crime.” Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, who mentioned that the identity of the attacker is unknown, condemned the assassination, and called it “a strike against the Arab Spring Revolution.” Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki said he would “fight those who opposed the political transition in his country.”
After Belaid’s assassination, 8,000 protesters amassed outside the Interior Ministry in Tunis, calling for the fall of the government. Thousands more held demonstrations throughout the cities of Tunisia, including Mahdia, Sousse, Monastir, and Sidi Bouzid, where Arab Spring demonstrators had originally gathered two years ago to call for the overthrow of the long-time dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.
“This is a black day in the history of modern Tunisia… Today we say to the Islamists, ‘get out’… enough is enough,” said Souad, a teacher who took part in the demonstrations outside of the Interior Ministry. “Tunisia will sink in the blood if you stay in power.”
Omar bin Ali, a member of the Tunisian Trade Unions, believes that Islamists were responsible for Belaid’s murder. “This is what they have been calling for in mosques,” said bin Ali, who took part in the demonstrations in front of the Interior Ministry. Bin Ali does not believe that the orders for Belaid’s assassination came from another country. “Tunisia is a friend of all nations. It is hard to think of anyone from abroad to do this to us.”
For further information, please see:
Al Jazeera — Leading Tunisian Opposition Politician Killed — 6 February 2013
The Independent — Tunisian Politician Chokri Belaid Shot Dead — 6 February 2013
Reuters — Tunisia Protests After Government Critic Shot Dead — 6 February 2013
Tunisia Live — Leftist Politician Chokri Belaid Assassinated — 6 February 2013