Public protests against police brutality grip Tunisia

Protesters blocking a street gesture as Tunisian security forces fire tear gas in the Sidi Hassine suburb on the northwestern outskirts of Tunis on June 12, 2021, amid outrage against policing practices following the death of a youth. (Photo by AFP)

Violent protests have erupted in the Tunisian capital after a video went viral of what appears to be four plain-clothes police officers stripping and beating a minor on the street.

On Saturday night, clashes occurred in the Sejoumi neighborhood of Tunis following protests earlier in the day in the city center.

Protesters threw chairs and stones at the police who responded by kicking and hitting the angry crowd with sticks.

The widespread circulation of the video this week triggered outrage on social media across Tunisia. The footage  showed police officers stripping the youth's clothes in Sejoumi, violently attacking him, and dragging him along a public road.

Tunisia's interior ministry has denied the allegation.

Protests have been raging on in the capital since Tuesday when a man arrested by police on suspicion of dealing drugs died in custody. The family accused the police of beating him to death.

The protesters are calling for police accountability and a "break with the policy of impunity that caused the high level of violence before" the 2011 revolution, which toppled president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's regime.

Tunisians on social media also mocked the official statement released by the interior ministry, which claimed that the youth had taken off his clothes himself, despite contradictory evidence seen in the video.

The incident raised doubts about the credibility of police reforms undertaken by the revolutionary forces who took power after Ben Ali was deposed.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, who has launched an anti-corruption campaign, described the incident as shocking and unacceptable.

Reports said the police officers involved in the violent incident had been arrested.

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