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Tunisia court drops charges in case that triggered protests across Middle East

A Tunisian court on Tuesday dropped charges against a police officer who incited protests in several Arab countries when she allegedly slapped a local fruit vendor. Police woman Fedia Hamdi was accused of slapping Mohamed Bouazizi [TAP report] in December in a dispute during which Bouazizi's cart was confiscated after he was allegedly found without a permit. As a result of the encounter, Bouazizi set himself on fire in front of the governor's office on December 17 and died three weeks later [BBC report]. Pro-democracy protesters generally discontented with unemployment, corruption and repression staged several demonstrations following Bouazizi's death. The mother of the late vendor withdrew her complaint against Hamdi, and the Sidi Bouzid Court of First Instance subsequently dismissed the case [AP report].

Protests erupted in several Arab nations following those in Tunisia. Law enforcement authorities in those countries, including Bahrain, Yemen and Egypt, have been heavily criticized for how they have handled the protests. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] released a report [text; PDF] this month urging the international community to pressure Yemeni authorities to investigate the death of protesters [JURIST report]. The UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] also urged the Yemeni government [JURIST report] to discontinue using force against peaceful protesters. In March, a commission of Arab and Egyptian human rights groups accused [JURIST report] former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak [Al Jazeera profile] and the police of murdering protesters during the demonstrations in Egypt.

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