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Tunisia: Footballer dies after setting himself on fire over police 'injustice'

Live stream shows Nizar Issawi first calling out police for unfairly accusing him of terrorism over a 'banana sale dispute'
Nizar Issawi set himself on fire in a protest against police (Facebook)

A Tunisian football player died on Thursday after setting himself on fire earlier this week over what he called police "injustice". 

Nizar Issawi had staged a protest on Monday outside a police station in Haffuz city, in Kairouan province.

In a live video on Facebook, the 35-year-old said the police had unfairly accused him of terrorism after he complained about a banana vendor selling the fruit at a price higher than the government rate. 

"People, look at them, they are being unjust against me," Issawi is seen saying in the video, while pointing at the police station. 

"How has a dispute over a banana sale landed me a terrorism charge?" he added, as crowds standing in the area pleaded with him not to self-immolate. 

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"Terrorism over bananas. Here they are," he said, before setting himself on fire. 

He suffered third-degree burns and was transferred to hospital, according to local health authorities. He died on Thursday night. 

His death prompted small angry protests in Haffuz. Police reportedly used tear gas to disperse protesters who threw stones at them. 

Tunisian authorities have not yet commented on the incident.

In a Facebook post attributed to Issawi as the last message he published before his death according to local media, the footballer said: "It's a great disappointment to see your rights being stolen in front of your eyes, once, twice and thrice in the name of rule of law. It's a great pain to feel like a stranger in your own homeland.

"Today is the last day I will speak in my life. I will be the judge and the defendant. I, Nizar Issawi, sentence myself to death by burning. I have no more energy, let the police state know that the sentence will be carried out today."

Issawi had played football for several Tunisian clubs, including top-flight professional side Union Sportive Monastirienne.

The incident is reminiscent of the December 2010 self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, whose death early the next year sparked mass protests across the Arab-speaking world known as the Arab Spring. 

Bouazizi, a 26-year-old street vendor from the central Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid, set himself on fire in protest against the corruption of his local police force, which regularly humiliated him and confiscated his wares.

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