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Tunisia: Mayor arrested over the suicide of a street vendor

September 26, 2022 at 4:44 pm

Tunisian flag is raised up to the highest flagpole in Tunis, Tunisia [Amine Landoulsi/Anadolu Agency]

The Head of the Tunisian Federation of Municipalities, Adnan Bouassida, said that the authorities arrested the Mayor of Mornag, Omar Al-Herbawi, at midnight on Saturday/Sunday, over the suicide of a street vendor in the city of Mornag, south of the capital.

The suicide of this young man has a special impact on Tunisians, where the suicide of a young street vendor in 2010 sparked popular protests that, on January 14, 2011, overthrew former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

In statements to Anadolu Agency, Bouassida denied any responsibility by the Mayor of Mornag for the suicide of the street vendor.

He explained that “any mayor who implements regulatory measures (regulating markets) is dismissed since this legitimises chaos,” as he said.

He called for “the release of Al-Herbawi and revealing the truth to the people.”

He added that the Ministry of Interior said, in a statement on Saturday that “the suicide occurred as a result of severe family disputes the young man has been living through … but the Mayor of Mornag was arrested without explaining the reasons.”

Bouassida considered that “what happened is an indication that the mayors have to stop their activities … and the chaotic allocation (setting street vendors’ places) is the responsibility of the State.”

He added: “The Municipality suggested to the street vendor to stand in the organised market and to choose any place, but he refused and stood on the public road.”

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He went on: “On Thursday, the municipal police took his weighing machine, and he met the Mayor, who told him the same thing, but the young man refused and returned to stand on Saturday.”

On Saturday, the Ministry of Interior said that “contrary to what was circulated on social media pages about the circumstances and causes that led to the suicide of the concerned young man, preliminary investigations based on the hearings of the witnesses showed that the deceased was experiencing severe family disputes.”

“As for the chaotic standing, its circumstances date back to Thursday, 22 September, 2022, when the dead young man was exploiting a chaotic standing place outside the municipal market in Mornag,” the Ministry added.

The Ministry continued: “Within the framework of implementing a municipal decision to prevent random standing on both sides of Hassan Hosni Abdel Wahab Street, and the decision No 7 issued by the Mayor on 21 September, 2022, which stipulates the removal of a chaotic standing point without a license belonging to the deceased in the relevant place, he was warned and the police satisfied to confiscate his electronic weighing machine and recommending him to settle his status with the relevant municipal department in the place.”

This incident comes at a time when Tunisia is suffering from an economic crisis that has been exacerbated due to the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine since 24 February.

READ: Tunisian sets himself on fire in protest against police treatment