Tunisia releases opposition Communist leader: party

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Tunisian authorities Friday released opposition figure Hamma Hammami, the leader of the banned Tunisian Workers' Communist Party, three days after arresting him, the party said.

"We've just heard that he's been released. He's at home," party official Adel Thabet told reporters in Paris, after family members had expressed fears for the 59-year-old leftist's life in government custody.

Hammami has been working underground to escape arrest since February last year, but in recent weeks has spoken to foreign media to support the protests against President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's authoritarian regime.

On Wednesday his wife, the lawyer Radia Nasraoui, said he had been snatched from his home in Tunis by officers of the political police and was being held incommunicado and without charge.

In the past 24 hours, amid unprecedented protests against his 23-year-long rule, Ben Ali has sent mixed signals: first promising to share political power and halt a violent crackdown, then declaring a state of emergency.

© 2011 AFP

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