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Mother of Tunisian fruit vendor who sparked Arab Spring is arrested

TUNIS, Tunisia -- The mother of the Tunisian peddler whose suicide sparked the Arab Spring was arrested after getting into a scuffle with a court official, a family member said on Friday.

Salem Bouazizi, brother of Mohammed Bouazizi, whose death made him a symbol for the frustrations of many, said their mother was arrested for allegedly attacking the official in Sidi Bouzid, the central town where Tunisia's revolution began.


Bouazizi said his mother, Manoubia Bouazizi, 60, returned an insult after the court employee insulted her, pushed her and slammed a door in her face, refusing to assist her application for documents.

According to the AFP news agency, Salem Bouazizi said the documents she was there to sign would have allowed her to receive compensation from the government given to "martyrs of the revolution."

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"This is an insult to the mother of a martyr," he said, demanding her immediate release.

"My mother was humiliated. The authorities must learn to respect people. We're not going to let this go," Bouazizi told AFP.

The prosecutor opened an investigation and interviewed witnesses for hours following the incident, AFP reported. One witness said Manoubia Bouazizi had "threatened to set fire to the court," according to testimony obtained by AFP.

Tunisia Live, which describes itself as the first English-language Tunisian news website, reported that Manoubia Bouazizi could face a fine and up to a month in jail; this could not be independently verified.

There was no immediate comment from the justice ministry.

Self immolation
Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire on a street on December 17, 2010, infuriated after a policewoman confiscated his goods, and died the following month.

His act sparked a wave of protests that spread through Tunisia's neglected hinterlands to the capital, forcing veteran dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to flee on January 14, 2011.

Ben Ali's departure sent shockwaves around the Arab world and sparked uprisings that ultimately overthrew leaders in Egypt and Libya last year.

The families of those killed in the Tunisian revolution have complained that the government has done little compensate them or to improve the position of the country's worst off.

Msnbc.com staff and Reuters contributed to this report.

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