Tunis – Tunisian authorities on Sunday arrested a television journalist and an MP who appeared on his show for criticising President Kais Saied’s power grab, their lawyer said.
It is the latest detention of a legislator after the immunity of MPs was lifted under Saied’s July 25 suspension of parliament. He also sacked the government and put himself in charge of the prosecution.
Saied followed up with measures that allow the president effectively to rule by decree, in the only democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings of a decade ago.
The lawyer, Samir Ben Omar, identified the arrested lawmaker as Abdellatif al-Alaoui and named the Zitouna TV presenter as Amer Ayad, saying they were being held on charges of “plotting against state security”.
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In the show, they both criticised the president’s September 29 appointment of Najla Bouden as Tunisia’s first female prime minister, with Ayad scoffing that she would function only as “servant of the sultan”.
Alaoui said he had “the courage to say” that Saied’s measures amounted to “a coup d’etat”.
Both were arrested at the request of a military court for “the expression of their own opinions during this broadcast”, according to the lawyer.
Alaoui is a member of ultraconservative Islamist-nationalist party Al-Karama, an ally of Islamist-inspired Ennahdha which had the largest number of seats in the parliament that Saied suspended.
Ennahdha condemned the latest arrests and the summons of civilians before military courts.
“This violates their right to a fair trial with all the necessary constitutional guarantees,” it said in a statement.
The president made his power grab after months of political stalemate and during the Covid-19 pandemic which further aggravated the North African country’s economic and social woes.
Zitouna TV is considered close to Al-Karama and Ennahdha, two parties which are foes of Saied.
Military justice arrested Al-Karama’s head Seifeddine Makhlouf on September 22 for “undermining the dignity of the army”, his lawyer said at the time.
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