Tunis – Tunisian authorities on Friday beat and briefly detained Seifeddine Makhlouf, according to a lawyer for the controversial parliamentarian who is bitterly opposed to President Kais Saied.
A video published online by lawyer Anouar Ouled Ali appeared to show the head of the ultraconservative Islamist-nationalist party Al-Karama being grabbed and bundled into a car by plain-clothes officers in central Tunis.
A military court had issued an arrest warrant against Makhlouf earlier this month over a March altercation at Tunis airport, where he and two other Al-Karama MPs are accused of insulting border police who had prevented a woman from flying.
The warrant came after Saied on July 25 sacked the government, suspended parliament, removed lawmakers’ immunity and made himself head of the prosecution.
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Shortly before his detention, Makhlouf – whose party is allied with Saied’s rival, the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party – had posted a video saying he was on the way to the court in Tunis with his lawyers.
“We are not afraid of the military court but we reject coups d’etat which use military justice to settle scores against opponents,” he said.
Lawyer Ouled Ali later told AFP that “as soon as he arrived at the court, plain-clothes police offices ran towards Seifeddine, forced him to the ground and beat him then forced him into a civilian vehicle”.
Ouled Ali’s video of the scene, published on Facebook and shared widely on social media, showed a man attempting to free himself as five men force him into a grey car.
The military court released him later Friday and set his next court appearance for September 27, Ouled Ali told AFP.
“What happened is extremely serious and unprecedented,” the lawyer said.
Following the president’s July 25 move, independent MP Yassine Ayari, another harsh Saied critic, was arrested and also faces military court charges for “insulting the army” on social media.
Activists in Tunisia and abroad have harshly criticised such military trials, which have sparked fears for rights won since the North African country’s 2011 revolution.
Picture: Getty Images