Manama: Mohammad Bu Azizi, the Tunisian man whose suicide attempt sparked unprecedented clashes in the Northern African country's modern history, is in stable condition, a local daily said on Friday.

According to Assabah, doctors at the hospital where Bu Azizi is being treated said there were positive signs and that his condition was improving.

On December 17, Bu Azizi set himself ablaze in Sidi Bouzid, a town in central Tunisia, after a woman municipality agent confiscated the weighing scales he was using to sell fruit and vegetables off a cart and slapped him, a highly humiliating act in the Arab world.

Samia Bu Azizi, his sister, told the daily that her brother was the breadwinner of the family and sold fruit and vegetables on a cart that he moved around the largely rural landlocked town.

"My brother is 26 years old and did not succeed in getting a high school diploma, so he took up selling fruit and vegetables in order to make some money for himself and the family," Samia said.

On December 17, he left home and went about his small business, selling fruit and vegetables when a municipality agent, a woman, put pressure on him on the grounds that he did not have a licence. Our uncle, who was at the scene, stepped in and calmed the situation."

The woman returned and insisted on a 10 Tunisian dinar (Dh26) fine. During the standoff, the woman seized the weighing scales, slapped him and threw away the fruit and vegetables he was selling, Samia told Assabah, an independent daily which was investigating the incident.

Bu Azizi did not accept the public humiliation and went to the local governorate building to report the incident. However, he was barred from entering as nobody wanted to listen to his plight, the sister said. "He became hysterical and in a highly deplorable act of hopelessness, went to the nearest petrol station, bought some gasoline, poured it on his body and set himself ablaze," Samia said.

Mannoubia, his mother, said that she was in an olive grove when she was told about the tragedy.

Receiving Mannoubia, President Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali, who visited Mohammad at the hospital, comforted her and expressed his keenness to ensure adequate social conditions for her family, the official news agency said.