Tunisian held over U.S. embassy attack dies in hunger strike: lawyer

Reuters News

11/15/2012 5:57:09 PM - Reuters News

TUNIS (Reuters) - A Tunisian Salafist held in custody after protesters ransacked the U.S. embassy in Tunis in September died on Thursday after nearly two months on hunger strike, his lawyer said.

Bechir Gholli, 26, had been one of dozens of Salafists who had begun a hunger strike over prison conditions. They were among 144 people arrested over the protests on September 14, triggered by an anti-Islam video made in the United States.

"Bechir Gholli, a student on hunger strike for 57 days in custody, was transferred to the hospital and he died today," his lawyer Anouar Aouled Ali told Reuters. Another Salafist, Mohamed Bakthi, was in hospital in critical condition.

Justice ministry officials declined immediate comment.

A Tunisian court last month sentenced Abou Ayub, a leader in the radical Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia, to one year in prison for inciting the attack in which four Tunisians were killed.

The attack on the embassy - which was not staffed at the time - followed one on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans, including U.S. ambassador Chris Stephens, were killed.

Tension has been growing between Islamists and secularists in Tunisia since the Islamist Ennahda Movement won an election last year.

(Reporting By Tarek Amara; Editing by Myra MacDonald)