Tunis: The United Nations has said about 300 people died in the Tunisian rights. A right activist from the country said the security forces raped and tortured convicts even after the fall of the old regime.

"About 300 people were killed and 700 injured during the troubles between December 17 and January 14," Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, told reporters in Tunis.

Mendez cited figures provided by Tunisia's interim administration, relating to the weeks of popular protest that led to the dethroning of Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, after 23 years in power.

The new figure is substantially higher than the previous toll issued by Tunisian officials in mid-February, which had put the death toll at 234, without specifying the number of injured.

Leading Tunisian rights activist Radhia Nasraoui said about 100 people had been tortured to death by the Ben Ali regime in its final weeks. The abuses continued under the interim administration, she added.

"We have had accounts from prisoners who have been tortured after the revolution and some of them have even been raped," she told a news agency.

Youths as young as 14 and 15 who had taken part in peaceful demonstrations were among those subjected to torture, Nasraoui said.

Mendez called for a complete and thorough investigation of the allegations, action against the perpetrators and compensation and help for the victims.

Administrative, legal and constitutional reform was needed for torture to be stopped, he added.

Mendez arrived in Tunisia for a week-long visit, during which he met officials of the transitional administration, rights activists and senior figures of several political parties.

It is the first official visit by an independent UN human rights expert since the January 14 overthrow of Ben Ali.

After his removal, political prisoners claimed torture and bad treatment during long periods in jail under the former regime. Mendez also met victims of torture and their families, and visited local branches of UN agencies and international organisations.

(Agencies)