Tunisian dies after inhaling tear gas at landfill protest
A Tunisian demonstrator died overnight after inhaling tear gas as police dispersed protests over the reopening of a landfill site, a medic and a relative said Tuesday.
The 35-year-old died in the town of Aguereb in the central region of Sfax, which has seen weeks of angry demonstrations over a growing waste crisis.
“Abderrazek Lacheheb was transferred to Aguereb hospital suffering from asphyxia,” a hospital official said.
The man’s cousin Houcine Lacheheb said the man had been alive when he arrived at the hospital but had died after security forces fired tear gas outside.
“It was the police who killed him,” he said.
An AFP journalist in Aguereb saw security forces using tear gas to disperse stone-throwing demonstrators.
Tunisian human rights group FTDES said Aguereb had seen “a violent intervention by security forces on Monday night to force the reopening of the Qena rubbish dump”.
“The massive use of tear gas caused the death of Abderrazek Lacheheb,” it said.
Protests flared again on Tuesday and demonstrators set fire to a National Guard station in the town, interior ministry spokesman Yasser Mesbah said.
The prosecution said it had opened an inquiry into Lacheheb’s death.
The interior ministry denied he had been suffocated by tear gas.
“The man had a health problem that was nothing to do with the protests. His hospitalisation and death were nothing to do with” the demonstrations, Mesbah said.
Videos shared on social media showed residents fleeing clouds of tear gas in front of the hospital, where angry relatives of Lacheheb were demonstrating after his death.
Public pressure had forced the closure of the Sfax region’s main rubbish dump, in Aguereb, in September. City councils in the region have been refusing to collect trash, complaining that the state has not found workable alternatives.
In a meeting on Monday with Prime Minister Najla Bouden and Interior Minister Taoufik Charfeddine, President Kais Saied called for an urgent solution to the Sfax rubbish crisis.