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Tunisia lawmakers reject motion calling for French colonial-era apology

Motion had called on France to apologise for 'assassinations, rapes and the pillaging of natural resources'
Only 77 votes were cast in favour of the motion, far short of the 109 votes needed for it to pass (AFP)

Tunisia's parliament on Wednesday rejected a motion calling on France to apologise for crimes committed during and after its colonial rule over the North African country, following 15 hours of debate that ran into the night.

The motion had been put forward by the small opposition party Al-Karama, which holds 19 of the 217 seats in parliament.

The party's lawmakers attended the session wearing T-shirts bearing the slogan: "Murder and torture, the brutality of French colonialism."

Only 77 votes were cast in favour of the motion, far short of the 109 votes needed for it to pass - a tall order, given the deep divisions among lawmakers.

The motion called on France to apologise for "assassinations... rapes... the pillaging of natural resources" and an alleged list of "other crimes committed since 1881," including supporting former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Tunisia was a French protectorate from 1881 until it gained independence in 1956.

A year later, it was declared a republic with Habib Bourguiba as its president. 

Bourguiba was overthrown in a bloodless coup in 1987 following allegations that he had become senile, and after doctors declared he was unfit to rule.

Ben Ali, who was prime minister at the time, was appointed president, a post he held until he was ousted in the country's 2010-11 uprising.

The uprising was the trigger for similar revolts that toppled autocratic leaders across the region in a wave of protest dubbed the Arab Spring.