Africa

Tunisia: Police disperse Islamist rally against brothel

Tunisian prime minister Mohammed Ghannouchi. Photo: 18 February 2011
Image caption Mohammed Ghannouchi announced the amnesty after a cabinet meeting

Tunisian police have dispersed dozens of Islamists demanding the closure of a brothel in the capital Tunis.

The police reportedly fired in the air to break up the crowd.

Separately, a Polish Catholic priest was found dead with his throat slit outside the capital.

And in another development, the country's interim cabinet approved amnesty for political prisoners held under the regime of ousted President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

In a televised speech after a cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi said the amnesty would take effect over the weekend "so that all those convicted under the former regime can get their civic and political rights back and be reintegrated into Tunisian society".

Mr Ben Ali, who was deposed in a popular uprising last month and fled to Saudi Arabia, has recently had a stroke and is now in a coma, reports say.

'Fascist extremists'

The Islamist protesters rallied outside the interior ministry in Tunis, following Friday prayers.

"There were several dozen riot police who shut off entry to the neighbourhood. They fired in the air to break up the crowd," eyewitness Mourad Barhoumi was quoted as saying by Reuters.

He added that the protesters did not want to go until a military official announced that the brothel had been shut.

The government has not publicly confirmed the closure.

Unconfirmed reports say at least three people were injured during the demonstration.

The rally is seen by some analysts as the latest sign of Islamists organising in Tunisia after the departure of Mr Ben Ali.

Elections to replace Mr Ben Ali are expected within six months, and at least one Islamist candidate is expected to run.

Later on Friday, a Polish priest was found dead with his throat slit near the capital.

Officials said Marek Rybinski, 34, was discovered in the garage of a religious school in Manouba, where he worked.

Tunisia's interior ministry said it believed the killing was the work of a "group of fascist extremists", judging by the way it was carried out.

In a statement, it said those responsible were trying to further destabilise the country.

No group has immediately claimed responsibility for the priest's murder.

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