Thousands of Tunisians protest over corruption amnesty bill

Thousands of Tunisians protest over corruption amnesty bill
Thousands of Tunisians took to the streets on Saturday to protest a bill that would allow Ben Ali-era corrupt officials to receive amnesty in exchange for reimbursing embezzled funds.
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More than 50 non-government organisations called for the protests [AFP]
More than 2,000 Tunisians protested on Saturday in the capital against a bill that would allow officials being prosecuted for alleged corruption to be amnestied in exchange for reimbursing embezzled funds.

"Corruption will not pass!" shouted demonstrators including prominent politicians in central Tunis, after a call to protest from more than 50 non-government organisations and "Manich Msameh" ("I shall not forgive" in Arabic).

Manich Msameh is an independent non-violent movement that hopes to hold accountable the top figures from the era of dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted in a 2011 popular revolution that triggered a series of Arab Spring uprisings.

The protesters reject a bill that would allow an amnesty for those being prosecuted for graft - including businessmen and Ben Ali-era officials - in exchange for them paying fines and reimbursing any illicit gains.

"There will be no reconciliation (with the corrupt) without the truth being revealed and without the prosecution and the judgment of the corrupt," said Hamma Hammami, leader of the Popular Front party.

Issam Chebbi, a lawmaker and top official in the al-Joumhouri party, said: While "the president insists on passing the draft law, we are determined to resist in a peaceful manner".

President Beji Caid Essebsi defended the bill on Wednesday, criticising calls for protests, saying that the legislation aimed to "improve the investment climate" in the country.

On Friday, non-government organisations warned against a text that they said threatened "transitional justice".

Tunisia has embarked on a period of transitional justice since the 2011 uprising, and last year held the first public hearings of a commission on human rights violations during six decades of dictatorship.