Tunisian police yesterday detained the mayor of a town where it was reported that a fruit seller committed suicide after his scales were seized by council officials, sparking protests, a judicial spokesman has confirmed.
Mohamed Amine Dridi aged 25, had hanged himself on Saturday two days after the electronic scales he used on his fruit and vegetable stall were taken, Tunisian media reported.
Africa Daily News, New York gathered that on Monday night, protesters in his hometown of Mornag, south of the capital Tunis, took to the streets criticising high rates of unemployment and soaring costs of living.
They torched tyres and blocked the main street in Mornag, while police fired tear gas to disperse them.
The death of fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi, a university graduate who set himself on fire in the town of Sidi Bouzid in 2010 to protest police abuse and unemployment, is reminiscent of Dridi’s suicide.
After Bouazizi was killed, there were weeks of widespread protests against official brutality, high living costs, nepotism, and unemployment. Sidi Bouzid was the starting point of the Tunisian revolution that finally led to the overthrow of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Omar Hirbaoui, the mayor of Mornag, was arrested on Monday as part of an investigation into the suicide, according to a judicial spokeswoman for the Ben Arous governorate.
Hirbaoui later appeared before a magistrate who decided to release him pending the investigation, the spokesman said.
Tunisia’s interior ministry said Dridi, the fruit seller, had faced “serious family problems”, claims his brother rejected in an interview on local radio on Monday.
The protests come amid brewing social discontent in the North African country of 12 million people, the torchbearer of the pro-democracy Arab Spring uprisings that rocked the region in 2011.
Tunisia is facing a serious economic crisis with regular shortages of basic foodstuffs and high inflation.
Since President Kais Saied staged a power grab in July 2021, opposition parties and civil society activists have accused the security services of resorting to methods reminiscent of those of the former dictatorship of Ben Ali.