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Tunisia: several deputies arrested

While two new deputies hostile to Tunisian president Kais Saied were arrested on Saturday night in Tunisia, several observers express their concern on Sunday about a possible authoritarian drift of the president.

A post of Prime Minister still vacant, arrests of deputies critical of the president… A week after the seizure of power of Kaïs Saïed in Tunisia, the fear of authoritarian drift prompted some observers to express their concern, Sunday 1er August.

While several arrests have caused controversy in the last three days, two deputies of the islamo-nationalist Al-Karama movement, an ultraconservative party allied with Ennahdha, were arrested overnight from Saturday to Sunday.

Kaïs Saïed granted himself full powers on 25 July and suspended Parliament, claiming to want to “save” this small country of the Maghreb, consumed by months of political blockades and a new deadly peak of Covid-19.

By introducing this exceptional regime, denounced by his opponents of the Ennahdha party as a “coup d’état”, Kaïs Saïed also lifted the parliamentary immunity of the deputies.

Two deputies in pre-trial detention

Maher Zid and Mohamed Affes are in pre-trial detention as part of a” military justice investigation, ” Al-Karama leader Seifeddine Makhlouf said on Facebook.

According to this lawyer very hostile to President Saïed, the two deputies and himself are being prosecuted in a case related to an altercation that occurred in March at the airport of Tunis. They are suspected of insulting border police officers who had banned a woman from traveling.

Contacted by AFP, the prosecutor’s office was unreachable. No details of military justice have been published.

Al-Karama is among the parties that denounce a” coup d’état ” by President Sayed.

Friday, an independent MP, Yassine Ayari, who also denounced a “military coup”, was arrested in application of a sentence of two months in prison, pronounced at the end of 2018, for having criticized the army, according to the Tunisian military justice. His imprisonment has raised concerns among NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

“Sliding towards political account settlement”

Faced with these arrests, the Harak party of the former President of the Republic Moncef Marzouki expressed in a statement of its”deep concern”. This formation, which is not allied with Ennahdha in the Assembly, condemned a ” slide towards the political settlement and the repression of freedoms, contrary to the assurances given by the head of State.”

Faced with concerns that the cradle of the Arab Spring is regressing towards authoritarianism, President Saied assured Friday that there is “no fear to be had” regarding freedoms and rights in Tunisia.

Quoting former French president Charles de Gaulle, he assured that he was no longer old enough to become a dictator. According to him, the arrests only concern people who have already been prosecuted by the courts.

However, the international community is increasingly concerned. On Saturday, the United States urged Tunisia to quickly resume “the path of democracy”.

A song to the glory of the president raises concerns

Some observers are beginning to doubt the ridge line followed by Kaïs Saied to pull Tunisia out of the rut. The recent arrests ” represent a strategic fault “and” do not comply with the president’s speech”, reacted to AFP political scientist Slaheddine Jourchi.

“Everyone expected him to start with the dangerous corruption cases and fight a direct battle against known parties, but these first arrests involved opponents,” he observes.

On Sunday, the publication on social networks of a song in praise of the president by his chief of staff also caused concern. Some Tunisian netizens denounced propaganda reminiscent of the regime of ex-dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Impervious to these criticisms, President Saied, who still enjoys a very strong popularity after his election with more than 70 % of the vote in 2019, treated himself to a crowd bath Sunday in Tunis.

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