Two jailed hunger strikers die in Tunisia

Demonstrators demand for the release of protesters who were arrested in connection with the September attack on the US embassy, in Tunis on 6 November 2012. The placard reads, "Where is the justice for the prisoners?" (Photo: Reuters - Zoubeir Souissi)

Published Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mohammed Bakhti, a prominent figure in Tunisia's Salafi movement, died on Saturday, nearly two months after launching a hunger strike following his arrest for an attack on the US embassy, his lawyer said.

"He died in hospital at around 2:00 am overnight," said Abdelbasset Ben Mbarek, noting that his death came after another member of the Islamist movement, Bechir Gholli, died on Thursday also after refusing food for nearly two months.

The lawyer had warned that Bakhti, who was suffering from a brain haemorrhage, was in critical condition for several days.

Bakhti and Gholli started their hunger strike in late September, days after their arrest for a 14 September attack on the US embassy by a crowd of Islamists during which four of the assailants were killed in clashes with security forces.

They insisted they were innocent and protested over the conditions of detention, while the Salafi movement charged it was being victimized by the authorities.

Bakhti was considered a senior figure in the jihadist movement and close to the alleged organizer of the embassy attack, Abu Iyad, who is on the run.

He was jailed for 12 years in 2007 for bloody clashes between the army and Islamists in Soliman, near Tunis, under Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali's regime but released under an amnesty declared after the 2011 revolution.

In the attack on the US mission, several hundred protesters, angry over an anti-Islam film made in the United States, stormed the sprawling embassy compound in a suburb of Tunis.
More than 100 people were detained following the attack.

Tunisia's hardline Islamists have carried out numerous acts of violence since last year's revolution that ousted former dictator Ben Ali.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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