Tunisia Islamists besiege opposition meeting
MIDOUNE, Tunisia - Hundreds of supporters of Tunisia's Islamist ruling party attacked members of a secular opposition party and besieged the hotel where they were meeting on Saturday, an AFP correspondent said.
The demonstrators brandishing banners hostile to the Nidaa Tounes (Call of Tunisia) party first gathered outside the Hotel Midoune on Djerba island but then broke through a police cordon and stormed into the hotel.
They broke into the hall where the meeting was being held, bringing it to an abrupt close.
The meeting was to mark the end of 40 days of mourning after the death of Lotfi Naguedh, who the party claims was beaten to death in October during a demonstration in the southern city of Tataouine.
Earlier, some demonstrators also threw rocks at officials of the opposition party, and several hotel windows were broken.
By mid-afternoon, the opposition activists and many journalists were blockaded inside the hotel, with the demonstrators outside chanting "Out, you swine!" before later pulling back but staying in the area.
Nidaa Tounes, founded in July and led by former premier Beji Caid Essebsi, is accused by Tunisia's ruling coalition of regrouping former regime officials and seeking to undermine the government.
Its supporters regularly clash with backers of the ruling Islamist Ennahda party.
Essebsi, speaking to radio stations, blamed the trouble on the pro-Ennahda League for the Protection of the Revolution.
Since the summer, violent demonstrations and attacks by radical Islamist groups have increased across Tunisia, which is struggling to stabilise since the revolution that ousted former despot Zine El Abidine Ben Ali two years ago.
"What is happening is a real scandal," lawyer Bochra Belhaj Hmida, who attended the opposition meeting, said.
"We have contacted the interior minister (Ali Larayedh) and the minister for human rights, Samir Dilou, but they refused to intervene."
Interior ministry spokesman Khaled Tarrouche said he was unable to provide information about the situation.