The Tunis Public Prosecutor’s Office opened an investigation on Thursday after the death the day before of a young man suspected of smuggling cigarettes by the shooting of a customs officer, media reported.
Mohsen Zeyani, 23, died Wednesday evening in a hospital in Tunis after being hit by gunfire from the customs officer in the so-called Passage sector, in the center of the capital, during an operation targeting a car transporting contraband cigarettes, according to these sources.
The General Directorate of Customs said for its part in a press release that one of its patrols had carried out “warning shots in the air and in the direction of the tires of the contraband vehicle” after being the target of “projectiles launched by a “mob of smugglers”.
One of the members of this patrol was “seriously injured” in the head, according to the same source.
The members of the patrol were placed in police custody pending the investigation opened by the prosecution, the statement added.
Videos showing a customs officer shooting towards the vehicle were broadcast Wednesday evening on social networks.
Family members and friends of the young man gathered overnight outside the hospital where he was pronounced dead and protests against his death took place in several districts of the capital, the media added.
This incident occurred while a social discontent is brewing in Tunisia, faced with a serious economic crisis which has resulted in recent months in recurring shortages of several basic products.
In addition, civil society NGOs and the opposition accuse the Tunisian security services of resorting to methods reminiscent of those of the police state under the former dictatorship of Zine el Abidine ben Ali, since President Kais Saied s assumed full powers in July 2021.
President Saied’s coup has shaken the young democracy in the country from which the Arab Spring revolts started in 2011.
The revolt in Tunisia began after the self-immolation by fire of street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi after the confiscation of his merchandise by the police.
The anti-corruption NGO I Watch on Thursday denounced the actions of the Tunisian security services, describing the death of the young Tunisian on Wednesday as “a scene of barbarism and infamy that will haunt this police state”.