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Hundreds of Tunisians demonstrate over MBS visit

Tunisians hold up signs and flags as they protest against the expected visit of the Saudi Crown Prince to the country

Hundreds of Tunisians took to the streets of Tunis last night to protest against the state visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.

Photos of demonstrators on Habib Bourguiba Street were shared hundreds of times on social media, with protestors rejecting the welcome offered to the Crown Prince by the Tunisian government.

The visit marks the first official trip of Mohammed Bin Salman since he was accused of having murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two months ago.

Hashtags were set up to rally support online, including “There is no welcome for Bin Salman”, and “No to the killer of Khashoggi in Tunis”. Many also condemned the Crown Prince’s role in the war of Yemen, amid news last week that some 85,000 children have died from malnutrition over the past three years.

A smaller protest was also held outside Tunis’ municipal theatre, with demonstrators putting on a short play mocking the prince and holding him responsible for the killing, and reported dismemberment of Khashoggi.

Protests are expected to continue today with demonstrators already gathering in some parts of Tunis. A large banner depicting Prince Mohammed leaning on a chainsaw, emblazoned with the words: “No to desecrating Tunisia, the land of the revolution” has also been hung on the National Union of Tunisian Journalists headquarters in the capital.

Secretary General of the union Soukaina Abdessamad said it was unacceptable that the country was receiving Bin Salman: “It is a danger to democratic transition. In a country like Tunisia, which wants to, which is moving towards democracy, which wants to build a democratic society – we cannot accept to receive or welcome a dubious Crown Prince.”

READ: Tunisia lawyers appeal to court to ban Saudi Crown Prince’s visit

Prince Mohammed’s visit, which is part of a tour of several Arab countries, will mark the first time a member of the Saudi royal family has visited Tunisia in seven years.

Yet the proposed visit has been marred by controversy, and condemned by Tunisian lawmakers across the political spectrum.

Hamma Hammami, the spokesperson of the main opposition Popular Front party, criticised the trip as a “provocation to the Tunisian people and its revolution and principles”.

“We will not welcome the devastator of Yemen and its people, the one who is suspected of being behind the gruesome killing of Khashoggi, and the leader of normalising with the Zionist entity at the expense of the Palestinian people,” Hammami told a local radio station.

The Democratic Progressive Party also rejected the prince’s visit, stating that it goes against the revolution’s principles of freedom and human rights for all.

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi’s office has stressed that Tunisia denounces Khashoggi’s killing and wants a full investigation, but added that it did not want the killing to be used to destabilise Saudi Arabia.

READ: Egyptian journalists reject bin Salman’s visit saying his natural place should be in the dock

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