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february 09, 2013 • 05:20 PM

Belaid's widow asks Tunisia government to protect her family

Tunisians hold a placard with an image of the late secular opposition leader Chokri Belaid during his funeral procession in the Jebel Jelloud district in Tunis February 8, 2013.
Foto: Anis Mili / Reuters
 

The widow of assassinated politician ‮‮‮‮‮ِ‬‬‬‬‬Chokri Belaid said on Saturday she was asking the Tunisian government to provide her family with official protection.

"After the killing of Chokri I am asking the Ministry of the Interior to provide official protection to me I and my daughters ... If any attack happens to the family, I will accuse the Ministry of Interior officially," Basma Belaid said On television.

Belaid's killing by an unidentified gunman on Wednesday -- Tunisia's first such political assassination in decades -- has shaken a nation still seeking stability after the overthrow of veteran strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011.

Belaid's family has accused the ruling Islamist party Ennahda of responsibility for his killing. The party denies any hand in it.

''We intend to begin judicial action to sue all those who accuse Mr Rached al-Ghannouchi, head of the Ennahda party, be they politicians or journalists who are exploiting the blood of the deceased for narrow political ends at the expense of the truth'', Rached Gannouchi, the head of Ennahda, said in a statement on Saturday.

Tunisia's political transition had been more peaceful than those in other Arab nations such as Egypt and Libya, but tensions are running high between Islamists elected to power and liberals who fear the loss of hard-won freedoms.

Nejib Chebbi, leader of the Republican secular party, said that the Tunisian president provided him with official protection after he received death threats a few weeks ago. Secularists fear that the assassination of Belaid could prompt other copycat killings in Tunisia.

Belaid's funeral on Friday drew the biggest crowds seen on Tunisia's streets since the overthrow of veteran strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011.

(Reporting By Tarek Amara; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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