Tunisia announced a new interim government free of any members of the regime of toppled Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Photo: Reuters

Tunisia announced Monday a new interim government free of any members of the regime of toppled Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and scrapped a security agency that had targeted political dissidents.

The new government is the third to be formed since Ben Ali ended his 23 years in power on January 14 by fleeing mounting protests in an uprising that inspired demonstrations across the Arab world.

Interim Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi announced a 22-member government -called a “public authority” -that includes five ministers, to replace ones who quit last week, and two women.

The new line-up returns 17 officials to posts they occupied in a government formed on January 27, with none of its members signed up to any political party.

All are technocrats expected to focus on reviving the economy.

The removal of figures from the Ben Ali regime was a key demand of protests that continued after the fall of the authoritarian leader, even though the new administration introduced unprecedented freedoms and released all political prisoners.

The interior ministry announced separately Monday that it was abolishing the feared general directorate of public security, affirming a commitment “to applying the law and respecting liberties and civic rights.”

The directorate had been tasked with seeking out political dissidents, thousands of whom were rounded up under Ben Ali, alleging torture and unfair trials.

A ministry statement announced a series of measures including “the definitive break with any form of organisation resembling the political police at the level of structure, mission or practice.”

These measures were in line with the “values of the revolution” and illustrating “the climate of confidence and transparency in the relationship between the security services and the citizen,” it said.

The ministry was despised under Ben Ali's government, being responsible for the police forces accused of a brutal crackdown on protesters that the United Nations says killed close to 150 people.

International rights groups have called for an investigation and for the security forces responsible to be held to account.

Protests against the previous interim government line-up flared late February, leading the previous interim prime minister, Mohammed Ghannouchi, to quit on February 27 after a weekend in which five people died.

Ghannouchi, who had also been the head of Ben Ali's government for 11 years, was a focus of the protests.

Two ministers who had also served for Ben Ali quit the following day, followed by three more including from the opposition.

Meeting another demand of the protesters, interim President Foued Mebazaa announced last week an election on July 24 to choose an assembly to write a new post-revolution constitution.

Twelve political parties have meanwhile received official approval since the fall of Ben Ali, bringing the number in the country to 21.

And as the country's authorities struggle to impose order following the revolution, it announced Sunday that nearly 2,000

people had been arrested in the past month including for assault and possessing illegal weapons. -