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Tunisia arrests spark fears of escalation

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A wave of arrests by Tunisian safety forces has sparked fears that President Kais Saied is resorting to harder measures in opposition to his opponents within the crisis-hit birthplace of the 2011 Arab uprisings.

The newest arrests, together with senior figures within the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha occasion, come a 12 months and a half after Saied sacked the federal government, froze parliament and seized far-reaching powers in what his rivals have described as a coup.

Whereas a variety of Saied’s opponents have since been questioned or positioned on trial in army courts, the arrests since Saturday of the top of the nation’s hottest radio station and a outstanding businessman, together with a number of different public figures, seem to mark an escalation.

“The nation is going through a grave disaster,” mentioned political analyst Abdellatif Hannachi, saying the circumstances across the arrests have been “very murky”.

“The president has turn into obsessive about utilizing the safety forces,” Hannachi added.

Saied has pressured by means of sweeping adjustments to the delicate democracy that emerged from Tunisia’s 2011 rebellion, pushing by means of a brand new structure and putting in a toothless parliament in votes that noticed unprecedentedly low turnout.

Tunisians are in the meantime grappling with a ruinous financial disaster that has seen necessities like cooking oil and occasional disappear from the cabinets.

Police on Monday night time arrested former justice minister Noureddine Bhiri and Mosaique FM director Noureddine Boutar, two days after the detention of tycoon Kamel Eltaief, former prime Ennahdha determine Abdelhamid Jelassi and political activist Khayam Turki.

Lawyer and former minister for state property Ghazi Chouachi mentioned authorities have been making an attempt to “distract public consideration and intimidate the opposition”.

In a Fb submit, he mentioned the arrests have been “arbitrary” and that Saied’s rule was one in every of “everlasting absurdity”.

‘Intimidation and arbitrary detention’

UN rights chief Volker Turk additionally voiced alarm on Tuesday over “the deepening crackdown in opposition to perceived political opponents and civil society in Tunisia, together with assaults on the independence of the judiciary”, his spokesman Jeremy Laurence instructed reporters in Geneva.

The fees in opposition to these detained haven’t been made public, however Saied mentioned Tuesday that a few of these arrested have been “criminals who have been plotting in opposition to state safety”.

He additionally blamed them for shortages of shopper items and runaway inflation, which consultants have attributed to the fallout from the conflict in Ukraine and the struggles of the Tunisian dinar.

“Organised gangs are plotting with these traitors and mercenaries,” Saied instructed his commerce minister in a video posted on the presidency’s Fb web page.

“Conspiracy in opposition to state safety” can carry the dying penalty.

Ennadha issued an announcement saying it “strongly condemns the abductions and systematic abuse of the opposition by Kais Saied’s putschist authorities”.

Mosaique additionally mentioned that it “strongly condemns the intimidation and arbitrary detention” of its director and what it referred to as the state’s “marketing campaign of concern” in opposition to journalists.

Media rights group RSF mentioned on Twitter that Boutar’s detention, “with out an arrest warrant or official purpose, his interrogation which targeted on his editorial selections, is as unacceptable as it’s sadly revealing of the crackdown on the press in #Tunisia”.

These arrested additionally embody a senior official from the UGTT commerce union federation, one of many nation’s strongest political forces which has had an more and more tense relationship with Saied.

Final week, 66 civil society teams, events and political figures voiced their “full help” for the highly effective UGTT commerce union, accusing Saied of “focusing on” it and making an attempt to “criminalise union work”.

The highest UGTT official for freeway employees, Anis Kaabi, had been arrested on January 31 after a strike by toll barrier employees, in what the union has described as “a blow to union work and a violation of union rights”.