French citizen among Tunisia protest dead: family

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One of the civilians shot dead during protests in Tunisia held joint French and Tunisian nationality, a relation told AFP on Thursday, as the death toll there continued to mount.

Hatem Bettahar, a 38-year-old lecturer in computing at the University of Technology in Compiegne, was one of two protesters killed by Tunisian police on Wednesday in the southern town of Douz, a witness there said.

"He is Franco-Tunisian. We had a call from the French consulate in Tunisia this morning. We're devastated," Elhem Ghorbel, the victim's sister-in-law, told AFP by telephone from her home in northern France.

The French foreign ministry confirmed it was probing reports that one of its citizens had been killed, and Bettahar's French teaching union said he had worked in France for at least 10 years.

The death of a citizen will increase pressure on France's government to speak out against the Tunisian government's deadly crackdown on the wave of anti-government protests that erupted last week.

France, Tunisia's former colonial power, has close ties with President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali authoritarian regime and has been slow to join a mounting international chorus of criticism of its tactics.

© 2011 AFP

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