Tunisia revolt: Mohamed Bouazizi police suspect freed

Mohamed Bouazizi's mother holds a photo of her late son in the town of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, 8 March
Image caption Mohamed Bouazizi's mother keeps a passport-sized photo of her late son

Proceedings have been dropped against a policewoman accused of abusing Mohamed Bouazizi, the market vendor whose suicide provoked Tunisia's revolution.

The case against Fadia Hamdi was dropped at the start of her trial in Sidi Bouzid after his mother withdrew her complaint, Tunisian media report.

Mannoubiya Bouazizi said she wanted to promote reconciliation.

Ms Hamdi denies slapping her son when police seized his goods, a move that drove Bouazizi to set himself on fire.

Speaking to Tunisia's TAP news agency, his mother said: "It was a difficult but well-thought out decision to avoid hatred and... [to] help reconcile the residents of Sidi Bouzid."

Her son died in hospital of his burns on 5 January, nearly three weeks after his self-immolation in front of the governor's office Sidi Bouzid.

"All the money in the world can't replace the loss of Mohamed who sacrificed himself for freedom and for dignity," his brother Salem said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press news agency.

'I did not slap him'

Tunisia's ousted President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali had Ms Hamdi arrested just before he fled abroad in January, in an apparent bid to quell national outrage over Bouazizi's fate.

In court, the policewoman insisted she was innocent. "I did not slap him," she said.

Her lawyer, Besma Nasri, described the case as "a purely political affair".

Hundreds of people outside the court cheered as the charges were dropped, shouting "freedom, freedom", and saying Ms Hamdi had been used as a scapegoat.

The main square in the Tunisian capital Tunis has been renamed after Mohamed Bouazizi.

Mr Ben Ali, who fled to Saudi Arabia, is currently wanted in his home country on 18 different charges, including voluntary manslaughter and drug-trafficking, and a caretaker government is in power in Tunisia.