Prominent Islamist dies in Tunisian prison after hunger strike

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Tunisia became the birthplace of the “Arab Spring” in January 2011 when protesters overthrew a long-established government and sent political shockwaves through the Arab world.

The attack on the U.S. embassy in September was triggered by an anti-Islam video made in the United States. Authorities arrested 144 people.

Bakhti was a student at the Faculty of Literature in Tunis. He took part in armed clashes in 2007 against the security forces of ousted president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and was arrested and held until after the revolution.

“The death of Tunisians because of hunger strikes is unacceptable .. the government should respond to the demands of the rest of the hunger strikers,” Imen Triki, president of the Freedom and Fairness human rights group, said.

“We regret the death of any Tunisian.. We have made many attempts to persuade Gholli and Bakhti to stop the hunger strike, but they refused and we provided them medical assistance,” Justice Minister Noureddine Behiri said on Friday.

The deaths of the two Salafists could embarrass the Islamic government, which faces pressure both from militant Muslims and secularists.

A justice ministry official said Three of 56 Tunisian prisoners on hunger strike are in a “more or less worrying condition.”

“The total number of hunger strikes is 56. Three are in a more or less worrying condition and two of them have said they will stop today,” a ministry official told AFP.

He said the three had been refusing food since October 17.

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