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237 people jailed in Tunisia unrest

237 people jailed in Tunisia unrest

Tunisian authorities said Friday the number of people detained in the wave of violent protests had risen to almost 800, after a provincial town was hit by a night of unrest over the austerity measures.

A Jewish school was also attacked after demonstrations broke out in the North African country on Sunday (January 9) as people protest against new tax and price increases imposed by the government on January 1 to reduce a ballooning deficit and satisfy foreign lenders. A video circulating on Facebook on Tuesday purportedly showed how police ran over the 55-year-old man, but the country's interior ministry denied the allegations and insisted he died from "chronic shortness of breath".

Tunisia's unity government, which includes Islamists, secular parties and independents - has portrayed the unrest as driven by criminal elements.

Prime Minister Yousef Chahed has said the riots have descended into "acts of vandalism", he added: "What happened is violence that we can not accept".

Six years since the 2011 uprising that overthrew Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia has been held up as a model by avoiding the violence that affected other nations after their Arab Spring revolts.

Protests are common in Tunisia in January, when people mark the anniversary of the 2011 revolution.

In this, as in the austerity measures and social inequality that sparked the protest movement, there are powerful echoes in the upheavals in Tunisia of the mass protests that recently swept Iran.

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Spokesman Ziyad Akhdar, of the Popular Front political umbrella group that has been spearheading some of the protests, called the prime minister's remarks "irresponsible", and called for an "independent inquiry" into who is provoking the violence.

In a number of areas, the army has been called out to back up local security forces and protect government buildings and banks.

Warda Atig is one of the founders and spokespeople for the Fech Netannew - What Are We Waiting For? - campaign, which had organised Friday's protests.

The Tunisian revolution and Arab Spring started in December 2010 after street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi burned himself to death in the town of Sidi Bouzid in protest over unemployment, poverty, police harassment and graft.

The new financial year has also brought with it price hikes on some goods and increased taxes on imports.

The rise in prices that came as a result of the economic reform is part of the guarantees given by the state to the International Monetary Fund, as part of a package of benefits it received for the rehabilitation of its economy.

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