Tunisia: 778 arrested for protesting against austerity measures

Riot police patrols the district of Intilaka north of Tunis Tunisia Thursday Jan. 11 2018. Tunisian authorities say 237 people were arrested and dozens of others injured across the country in recent days as violent protests against government-imposed

Tunisian police arrested another 150 people, including local opposition leaders, on Friday even as a series of week-long protests against price and tax rises appeared to diminish in intensity and numbers.

"Waving yellow cards - an echo of the "warning" card" flashed by soccer referees - protesters marching on administrative offices in the capital, Tunis, on Friday demanded the government reverse austerity measures implemented at the start of the year.

One protestor was killed and dozens of government headquarters and institutions were set on fire.

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.

Clashes erupted in more than 20 towns and cities late on Tuesday, including the southern city of Gafsa and in Sidi Bouzid, where protests previously led to the ousting of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 and sparked the regional Arab spring uprisings.

"The people want the budget reduced!" protesters shouted, describing Tunisia's current cabinet as a "starvation government".

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"We had hoped that our lives would become better, that we get jobs and housing, but everything has turned for the worse", said Bashir Hussein, one of the disgruntled graduates.

Interior ministry spokesman Khalifa Chibani said 151 people were arrested Thursday, taking the number detained for alleged involvement in the violence to 778 after several nights of unrest.

More than 770 people have been detained in almost a week of sometimes violent demonstrations.

Sixteen "Islamist extremists" were among those arrested, he said.

"We're concerned about the high number of arrests, some 778 people we understand have now been arrested since Monday, and around a third of those arrested were between the ages of 15 and 20 so very young", United Nations human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva.

Djerba is home to Tunisia's main Jewish community.

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