Police fire tear gas to disperse protesters in Tunis

TUNIS (Reuters) – Tunisian police fired tear gas in front of parliament yesterday to disperse secular protesters demanding the dissolution of the assembly and Islamists defending the legitimacy of their rule.

Police began firing after the arrival of thousands of opposition protesters who had been attending the funeral of the assassinated secular politician Mohamed Brahmi, a Reuters reporter said. Protesters threw stones back at police and there were several injuries.

Among those wounded was an opposition lawmaker from the same party as Brahmi.

Secular opposition parties are demanding the dissolution of the Islamist-led government and parliament, known as the constituent assembly, which has been tasked with drafting a new constitution.

“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 blames for the killing.

Ghannouchi has denounced Thursday’s assassination as an attack on the country’s tumultuous process of transition from autocratic regime to democratic state.

In a counter-demonstration, hundreds of Islamists flocked in front of the parliament, chanting slogans condemning what they called an attempted coup against democracy.

The Interior Ministry issued a statement calling for calm.

The speaker of the Constituent Assembly urged lawmakers who had withdrawn from the assembly in protest to return to work at this critical juncture for completing the constitution.

“I call on them to back down from their decision. It’s not rational to throw in the towel just metres away from the finish line,” said Mustafa Ben Jaafar in a televised speech.

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