A court in Tunisia has dropped charges against a policewoman whose dispute with a fruit vendor inadvertently sparked a crisis that ultimately led to the downfall of the nation’s dictator and spread the seed of revolution across the Arab world.
According to the state TAP news agency, the court said its case against Fadia Hamdi was closed after the family of Mohamed Bouazizi withdrew its complaint against the officer.
The family of Bouazizi said it agreed to drop “bullying” charges against the police officer in order to foster tolerance and peace as Tunisia tries to establish a new status quo.
I am innocent. I did not slap him, Hamdi told the court, before the judge ordered her release.
This is a purely political affair. She is innocent, Hamdi's lawyer Besma Nasri told Reuters.
Outside the court, hundreds of Tunisians gathered to express support for Hamdi, citing that she was another victim of Ben Ali.
They chanted Freedom, Freedom and carried placards reading Fadia is innocent.
In December, Hamdi allegedly slapped Bouazizi, a fruit vendor in the provincial town of Sidi Bouzid. She confiscated Bouazizi's possessions, citing that he didn’t have the proper permit to sell fruit in public.
Humiliated and angered, Bouazizi poured gasoline on himself and set himself ablaze in front of the local governor’s office in protest. He later died of full-body burns.
At the time to appease anger President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali detained Hamdi.
Bouazizi’s needless death prompted demonstrations that have mushroomed wide and far and likely have permanently changed the course of Mideast and North African history.
Inspired by Bouazizi’s small personal grievance, Tunisians took to the streets to protest much larger problems – including high unemployment, poverty , repression by the state and the rampant greed and corruption of the ruling regime of President Ben Ali and his family.
The protests reached such a crescendo that by mid-January (just a month after the Bouazizi incident), Ben Ali was forced to flee to exile in Saudi Arabia.
Thereafter, protests erupted in Egypt, then Libya, and then to Yemen, Syria, Morocco and many other Arab nations.
Meanwhile, the interim government in Tunisia is struggling to develop a new democracy and fix an economy in shambles. Many young Tunisian men have already left the country for Europe, but their status there is in limbo.