Tunisian prisoners being released


A protester addresses riot police officers during a demonstration against the RCD party in Tunis (AP)

Tunisia’s new government has started to release prisoners and has moved to track down assets stashed overseas by its deposed president and his widely disliked family.

Tensions on the streets appeared to be calming as the administration tried to show it was distancing itself from the old guard.

Hundreds of protesters led a rally in central Tunis demanding that former allies of deposed President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali stop clinging to power.

Later, about 30 youths in the capital broke a curfew and set up camp near the heavily guarded Interior Ministry, bringing mats, food and water for an overnight sit-in. Police did not bother them.

In recent days, officers have fired tear gas and clubbed protesters.

The UN said more than 100 people have died in the unrest which surrounded the ousting of the president.

Mr Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia on Friday after 23 years in power, and a caretaker government is now struggling to calm the moderate Muslim nation on the Mediterranean Sea, popular among European tourists and seen as an ally in the West’s fight against terrorism.

Mr Ben Ali’s long-time prime minister, Mohamed Ghannouchi, kept his post and is trying to convince Tunisians a new era has arrived – even if the composition of the interim government has many faces from the old guard.

Interim President Fouad Mebazaa went on television and promised to live up to the people’s revolt, which he called a “revolution”.

“Regarding security, you have certainly noticed that it has improved,” he said. “We have discovered the leaders of the chaos, and have stopped the gangs and those who put fear in the hearts of people. The situation is moving toward stability.”

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