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Tunisian Protesters Maintain Demand For Government's Resignation


People hold candles during a demonstration on Bourguiba Avenue in central Tunis late on January 22.

People hold candles during a demonstration on Bourguiba Avenue in central Tunis late on January 22.

Hundreds of protesters have taken to the streets in the capital, Tunis, to demand the government's resignation after the overthrow of longtime President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali last week.

The hundreds of protesters, organized by the General Union of Tunisian Workers, held pictures today of people killed by security forces during the weeks of demonstrations against poverty, unemployment, and repression that ended the rule of Ben Ali, who fled to Saudi Arabia following 23 years in office.

Embattled Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi, who stayed in power to head an interim coalition government, promised on January 21 to leave politics after elections could be organized to form a new government.

But that didn’t stop thousands from taking to the streets on January 22 to demand his ouster.

A maitre d'hotel who gave only his first name, Terek, echoed the opinion of many on the streets angry over what they say was only a token attempt to include opposition members in the government.

"We hope things will slowly get better," Terek said. "But we must respect the people's wishes, get rid of this government and everything will come to an end."

The protests were joined by some 2,000 members of the once-feared police, showing their support for the demonstrators and demanding higher salaries.

Hundreds gathered in the center of Tunis late on January 22 after the protests, to light candles in memory of those killed over the past several weeks.

Then the streets began emptying of people when army trucks announced the start of a curfew at 8 a.m.

Investigating Interior Ministry

The government said on January 22 it had appointed commissions to investigate the Interior Ministry's role in the deaths of protesters in Tunisia's "Jasmine Revolution" and revise the country's laws to prevent the rise of another authoritarian leader.

Taoufik Bouderbala, who heads the commission to investigate abuses during the protests, said his panel would be fully independent.

"The first thing we will do is to go to the side that had major involvement in these abuses, and that's the Interior Ministry, or the employees of the Interior Ministry, or some of the employees we've come to know by name or by indication," Bouderbala said, "a group that has committed acts of looting, killing and opened fire on defenseless citizens."

The Interior Ministry 78 people died in the demonstrations to topple Ben Ali, but the UN puts the number at 117. Today is the last of three days of national mourning for victims of the clashes.

compiled from agency reports
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