300 held over the weekend for breaking curfew as Egyptian president urged Tunisians not to let their country 'go to waste'
Over 1,000 people have been arrested during nine days of fierce anti-government protest in Tunisia, authorities said on Monday as the security forces union launched a mass demonstration.
Three hundred of those detained were arrested for breaking a strict curfew put in place nationwide on Friday after widespread looting and rioting broke out, according to a statement from the Interior Ministry on Monday.
A total of 1,105 people have been arrested, said ministry spokesperson Walid Louguini, with 538 people detained over the weekend for looting.
Authorities announced on Saturday that the curfew would remain in place indefinitely.
Since the unrest began on 16 January after a young graduate died in a protest against widespread unemployment, one police officer has been killed and 114 injured.
Hundreds of people have also been admitted to hospital after suffering tear gas inhalation during protests.
The situation on Monday was relatively calm, after Prime Minister Habib Essid on Saturday called for “patience”.
His comments were echoed on Sunday by President Sisi of nearby Egypt.
During a speech at a police college a day ahead of the fifth anniversary of Egypt’s 2011 uprising, Sisi advised Tunisians not to let their country “go to ruin”.
“The economic situation is tough the world over – you must protect your country and not let it go to ruin.”
Sisi’s speech was welcomed by a spokesperson for the Tunisian government, Khalid Shawkat, who said it had “moved the country’s leaders and people,” though Tunisian activists on Twitter drew parallels between Sisi’s comments and those of his forerunner Hosni Mubarak, who in 2011 publicly dismissed the unrest in Tunisia that would eventually spread to Egypt and end his 30-year rule.
Despite calls for calm, protests continued on Monday, with security forces using tear gas to disperse crowds who blocked roads and tried to attack a local government office in Sidi Bouzid, the small and deprived town where unrest originally began in 2011.
In the capital Tunis, members of the security forces demonstrated over pay and conditions in front of the presidential palace.
The Union of Internal Security Forces, which organised the demonstration, said on Facebook that over 8,000 took part in the march.