Thousands protest Tunisian government at opposition leader funeral

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Tens of thousands of Tunisians turned out for the funeral of slain opposition leader Mohamed Brahmi on Saturday, and called for the Islamist-led government to be toppled.

Crowds gathered at the procession in a show of support for Brahimi, who was shot dead outside his home on Thursday with the same weapon used to gun down fellow opposition politician Chokri Belaid in February, Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou said.


Wrapped in the red and white Tunisian flag, Brahimi's coffin left the Tunis neighborhood of Ariana shortly before 10:00 am (0900 GMT).

Brahmi's body was taken in a military vehicle to the Jellaz cemetery, where fellow assassinated politician Belaid was laid to rest in February.

Military helicopters hovered overhead and hundreds of troops and police lined the route of a procession attended by Brahmi's widow and son and several prominent politicians.

The Interior Ministry, citing physical evidence and witnesses, said Friday that Brahmi's assassin was Boubakr Hakim, a known militant and weapons smuggler who was part of the same al-Qaida linked cell that murdered Belaid back in February.

Hakim allegedly shot Brahmi 14 times outside his home Thursday in full view of his family with the same 9mm semi-automatic handgun used to kill Belaid, before he sped away on the back of a moped.

Thousands of protesters chanted slogans against the Islamist-led government.

“The people want to topple the regime!” and “With our blood and with our souls we will sacrifice ourselves for the martyr!” people in the crowd shouted.

“Ghannouchi, assassin, criminal,” others chanted, referring to Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the ruling Islamist Ennahda party that Brahmi's family says was behind the killing.

Ghannouchi has denounced Thursday's assassination as an attack on democracy.

Constituent Assembly protests

Meanwhile, Tunisian police fired tear gas in front of the parliament building on Saturday to disperse secular protesters demanding the dissolution of the assembly and Islamists defending the legitimacy of their rule.

Late on Friday, 42 opposition members announced their resignation from the 217-seat Constituent Assembly to protest against the killing of Brahmi.

Khamis Kssila of the Nida Touns party said the departing members would begin a sit-in to demand the dissolution of the assembly and formation of a national salvation government - ideas rejected by Prime Minister Ali Larayedh.

The assembly, controlled by Islamists, is in charge of drafting a new constitution for the nation of 11 million people.

(With Reuters and the Associated Press)

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