Jan 14, 2022 19:21 UTC
  •  Tunisians stage protest against president on 2011 uprising anniversary

Hundreds of Tunisians have taken to the streets to protest against President Kais Saied's July seizure of power on the 11th anniversary of the departure of the late dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

During the Friday rallies, some demonstrators chanted "down with the coup!" a reference to Saied's moves on July 25 last year, when he suspended the parliament and sacked the government.

Tunisian police used water cannon and batons to block the protesters from reaching and gathering in Habib Bourguiba Avenue in central Tunis, the cradle of the 2011 uprising and a focal point of demonstrations.

"Today, Saied's only response to opponents is with force and the security forces... it is so sad to see Tunisia like a barracks on the date of our revolution," Chayma Issa, an opposition activist, told Reuters.

The Interior Ministry said 1,200 people had taken part in the protest and its forces had exercised restraint.

According to AFP, nearly 300 protesters gathered on Mohamed V Avenue, where some broke through a police cordon before the troops used batons to force them back. Several protesters were reportedly arrested.

"Preventing free Tunisians from protesting on the revolution anniversary is shameful... and is an attack on freedoms and represents a big decline under the coup authorities," Reuters cited Imed Khemiri, a member of the suspended parliament from the Ennahda party, as saying.

The Friday protest took place in defiance of the new COVID-19 restrictions that came into force on Thursday.

Ennahdha and other political parties have described the ban on all gatherings and the imposed night curfew as politically motivated, saying they aimed to prevent anti-Saied protests.