Tunisian minister defends protest shutdown

Jan 30, 2011
TUNIS – A MEMBER of Tunisia’s new cabinet on Saturday defended the shutting down of a protest camp in the capital the previous day saying police intervened after protesters started throwing stones.

‘There was no order to clear the area. Neither the prime minister nor the interior minister gave such an order,’ Mokhtar Jalleli, a former dissident lawyer who is now the country’s agriculture minister, told AFP in an interview.

‘A slip, even quite a serious one, should not question the construction of democracy,’ he said, adding that there was no ‘confiscation of the revolution.’ Asked about his decision to join the government, he said: ‘If the only reason was to be a guardian of this revolution, that would be enough for me.’

Mr Jalleli is from Sidi Bouzid – an impoverished rural town in central Tunisia where the social protests that sparked a national uprising against president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s 23-year rule began last month.

He was a member of parliament under the ousted regime – one of the few in 2002 to oppose a change to the constitution allowing Ben Ali’s re-election and he was the only one to vote against a harsh anti-terrorism law in 2003.

He spoke to AFP after riot police and hundreds of protesters fought running street battles in the city centre – the latest incident in a series of tumultuous protests that have shaken the country in the past weeks. — AFP

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