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Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Leading Tunisian opposition figure shot dead. No suspects.

From Al Ahram and Reuters:

A prominent Tunisian opposition politician was shot dead outside his home on Wednesday, in a killing the prime minister condemned as a political assassination and a strike against the 'Arab Spring' revolution.

Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali said the identity of the killer of Shokri Belaid, a staunch secular opponent of the moderate Islamist-led government, was unknown.

President Moncef Marzouki cut short a visit to France and cancelled a visit to Egypt scheduled for Thursday after the killing, which brought around 1,000 protesters onto the streets outside the Interior Ministry.

"The murder of Belaid is a political assassination and the assassination of the Tunisian revolution. By killing him they wanted to silence his voice," said Jebali, who heads the government led by the Ennahda party, which won Tunisia's first post-Arab Spring election in 2011.

Belaid, who died in hospital after being shot in the capital Tunis, was a leading member of the opposition Popular Front party.

"Shokri Belaid was killed today by four bullets to the head and chest ... doctors told us that he has died. This is a sad day for Tunisia," Ziad Lakhader, a leader of the Popular Front, told Reuters.
There are protests happening now in response:
10:15 a.m. Demonstrators in front of the Interior Ministry are expressing their solidarity with Belaid and chanting, “We are all Chokri,” “O Chokri, O martyr, we will follow your path,” and “Terrorism, bullets, Tunisians are fearless.”

They are also crying anti-Ennahdha slogans, such as “Ghannouchi (Ennahdha founder), you are a predator,” “dégage (get out, in French),” “This will be the last day for this government,” and “Bring down the oppressor of the people, bring down the Brotherhood party.”

10:30 a.m. “A country controlled by violence… It’s a huge shock for Tunisians. Where did all these weapons come from? Our people are peaceful. Once, at the time of Ben Ali, there was violence… He fell and so will this government,” said Hazar Trabelsi, a protester on Bourguiba avenue.

“What is this? All he owned was his words. How could that be faced by fire?” said another protester, Zayneb.

10:50 a.m. Another wave of young protesters are coming from Liberté street to join the mass of protesters in front of the Interior Ministry.

11:10 a.m. The Popular Front coalition has joined the protest, which has continued to grow in size.
And more details of the assassination:
In an interview on Tunisian radio Mosaique FM, Minister of Interior Ali Laarayedh said that two suspects were involved in the assassination. One shot Belaid and then took off on the motorcycle of an accomplice, who was waiting for him.
I don't think that the leading Ennahdha party had anything to do with this, but it points out a danger of even "moderate" Islamism.

One of the problems with even "moderate" Islamism is that it moves the political center of the entire country towards Islamic extremism, making things that were formerly extremist to be considered more tolerable, and things that were unthinkable - like assassinating a leading politician - can enter the realm of possibility.