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Family of slain Tunisian opposition leader blames ruling Islamists

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The family of slain Tunisian critic Chokri Belaid accused Thursday the ruling Islamist Ennahda party for the assassination of their son in an attempt to silence opposition voices in the post-revolutionary Tunisia.

Chokri’s brother, Abdel Majeed Belaid told Al Arabiya in an interview that his brother had been imprisoned and tortured by the dictatorial regime of the ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, blaming the current regime for acting “worse” than the previous one toppled in the 2011 revolution.

Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi denied any involvement by his party in the killing.

“Is it possible that the ruling party could carry out this assassination when it would disrupt investment and tourism?” Ghannouchi told Reuters.

He blamed those seeking to derail Tunisia’s democratic transition: “Tunisia today is in the biggest political stalemate since the revolution. We should be quiet and not fall into a spiral of violence. We need unity more than ever,” he said.

He accused opponents of stirring up sentiment against his party following Belaid’s death. “The result is burning and attacking the headquarters of our party in many areas,” he said.

Furious demonstrators built barricades in central Tunis on Wednesday and clashed with police, and four opposition groups including Belaid’s Popular Front bloc said they were pulling out of the national assembly.

Islamist Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali said in a televised address after Belaid was shot dead outside his home in Tunis Wednesday that he would form a new, non-political administration ahead of fresh elections.

“I have decided to form a government of competent nationals without political affiliation, which will have a mandate limited to managing the affairs of the country until elections are held in the shortest possible time,” he said.

Jebali did not specify that he was dissolving the existing government, nor did he set a date for the reshuffle which must be confirmed by the national assembly.

President Moncef Marzouki denounced the killing of Belaid, an outspoken critic of his government, as an “odious assassination”.