Hundreds of Tunisians protested outside the interim parliament on Tuesday against a bill that would compensate partisans of the ruling Islamist party Ennahda who suffered under the country's former leaders.
"Neither compensation nor hypocrisy, gang of thieves!" shouted the protesters, most of whom were members of the union of unemployed graduates, according to an AFP reporter.
"Poor people are in need of this money!" and "Shame on those who profit from their political battles!" read some of the banners brandished at the demonstration.
Government spokesman Samir Dilou announced shortly afterwards that the debate on the controversial bill had been postponed, but that the government would honour earlier commitments to compensate victims of state repression.
"The consideration of the bill is postponed until studies have been carried out that will allow the government to reconcile the (social) commitments of the state with balancing the budget," he told reporters.
"The commitment to compensate political prisoners has been taken by the interim post-revolution governments and will be respected by the present government," added Dilou, who is also interim minister for human rights and justice.
The protest follows the resignation of finance minister Houcine Dimassi last week over complaints about excessive spending.
The "most serious matter," he said, involved the bill before the National Constituent Assembly offering compensation to Islamist victims of repression under former presidents Habib Bourguiba and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was toppled last year in a mass uprising.
Tunisians who benefited from a post-revolution amnesty would be liable for compensation, of whom Ennahda members represent the largest contingent.
Dimassi said the government's spending "excesses" were aimed at "gaining the sympathies of certain social groups" ahead of next year's planned elections, and estimated the bill would cost the state one billion dinars (about $615 million, 500 million euros).© ANP/AFP