Tunisia on Tuesday said it will allow demonstrations on a symbolic street in the capital two days after police brutally clamped down on protesters who defied a ban on rallies.
“The avenue is reopened to all Tunisians, those who want to demonstrate, to walk or to work,” Interior Minister Ali Larayedh said following a cabinet meeting that also called for an “independent inquiry” into Monday’s violence.
Bourguiba Avenue in the heart of Tunis has been the site of numerous demonstrations since the Zine el Abidine Ben Ali regime fell in January 2011.
But Tunisia’s government, led by the moderate Islamist party Ennahda, banned rallies on the street on March 28, three days after Islamist protesters demanding sharia law attacked a group of actors last month.
The interior ministry said the ban was needed because those who do business on the avenue had complained about the repeated disruptions.
On Monday, at least 15 civilians and eight policemen were hurt as riot police fired tear gas and baton-charged hundreds of protesters who had turned out to defy the ban.
Larayedh, an Ennahda member, has been called to give an account of the violence to Tunisia’s constituent assembly on Thursday.
Government spokesman Samir Dilou said later the cabinet had decided to set up an independent inquiry into the violence and especially the reported presence of “militia groups” alongside the police.
“If this is true, it is very serious,” he said. “If they are gratuitous accusations it’s also a problem.”
Demonstrators had spoken of people in civilian clothes armed with batons and teargas grenades who gave support to the police. Opposition politicians seized on the reports to accuse Ennahda of responsibility.
Dilou said that Bourguiba Avenue would be reopened “according to strict procedures” which he did not spell out.