Tu­nisians march against con­tested cor­rup­tion amnesty

Stabroek News Sunday - - WORLD NEWS -

TUNIS (Reuters) - Hun­dreds of Tu­nisians protested on Satur­day in the streets of the cap­i­tal against a widely con­tested new law that grants of­fi­cials from the for­mer regime in­volved in cor­rup­tion amnesty from pros­e­cu­tion.

Tu­nisia’s par­lia­ment on Wed­nes­day ap­proved a law pro­tect­ing of­fi­cials ac­cused of graft dur­ing the rule of au­to­crat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, trig­ger­ing an­gry protests by the op­po­si­tion and ac­tivists.

Wav­ing flags and ban­ners say­ing “No to for­give­ness”, “Re­sist­ing against mafia rule”, around 1,500 people marched through the cap­i­tal’s central Av­enue Habib Bour­guiba in the com­pany of op­po­si­tion lead­ers.

After months of protests, the law was amended from an orig­i­nal draft which would have also granted amnesty to cor­rupt busi­ness­men. Now they will be li­able to pros­e­cu­tion for crimes com­mit­ted dur­ing Ben Ali’s 24-year rule.

Crit­ics of the so-called “Economic Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion” law say it is a step back from the spirit of Tu­nisia’s 2011 revo­lu­tion to oust Ben Ali, who fled after weeks of protests against cor­rup­tion and in­equal­ity.

“The coun­ter­rev­o­lu­tion is be­ing led to­day by the Pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic,” Hamma Ham­mami, leader of Pop­u­lar Front party, told Reuters. “The people re­turned to the streets again to­day as be­fore the revo­lu­tion and will not be silent against the cor­rupt sys­tem.”

Rul­ing par­ties En­nahda and Ni­daa Tounes sup­ported the law. The law was pro­posed by Pres­i­dent Beji Caid Essebsi, him­self a for­mer Ben Ali of­fi­cial, and sent to par­lia­ment in 2015. But de­bate was post­poned after crit­i­cism that the orig­i­nal bill ben­e­fited busi­ness elites tied to the gov­ern­ment.

Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials say the law helps to turn the page on the past, im­proves the cli­mate for in­vest­ment and gives con­fi­dence to the ad­min­is­tra­tion and of­fi­cials.

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