POLICE on Monday briefly detained the mayor of a town where a fruit seller committed suicide after his scales were seized by council officials, sparking protests, a judicial spokesman said.
Mohamed Amine Dridi, 25, hanged himself on Saturday two days after the electronic scales he used on his fruit and vegetable stall were taken, Tunisian media reported.
On Sunday night, protesters in his hometown of Mornag, south of the capital Tunis, took to the streets criticising high rates of unemployment and soaring costs of living.
They torched tyres and blocked the main street in Mornag, while police fired tear gas to disperse them.
Dridi’s suicide echoes the death of fruit seller Mohamed Bouazizi, a university graduate who set himself on fire in 2010 in the town of Sidi Bouzid to protest police harassment and unemployment.
Bouazizi’s death triggered weeks of mass protests against unemployment, high living costs, nepotism and state repression, and Sidi Bouzid became the birthplace of Tunisia’s revolution that eventually toppled president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
On Monday, Mornag’s mayor, Omar Hirbaoui, was taken into police custody as part of an investigation into the suicide, a judicial spokesman for the Ben Arous governorate said.
Hirbaoui later appeared before a magistrate who decided to release him pending the investigation, the spokesman said.
Tunisia’s interior ministry said Dridi, the fruit seller, had faced “serious family problems”, claims his brother rejected in an interview on local radio on Monday.
The protests come amid brewing social discontent in the North African country of 12 million people, the torchbearer of the pro-democracy Arab Spring uprisings that rocked the region in 2011.
Tunisia is facing a serious economic crisis with regular shortages of basic foodstuffs and high inflation.
Since President Kais Saied staged a power grab in July 2021, opposition parties and civil society activists have accused the security services of resorting to methods reminiscent of those of the former dictatorship of Ben Ali.