Middle East

Tunisia detains parliament member as rights worries grow

FILE PHOTO: Tunisian President Kais Saied takes the oath of office in Tunis, Tunisia, October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souiss/File Photo/File Photo

TUNIS: Tunisian security forces detained a member of parliament on Friday, his lawyer said, amid growing concern for rights after the president seized governing powers in July in a move his foes call a coup.

Saif Eddine Makhlouf, a leader of the conservative Karama party and a frequent critic in parliament of President Kais Saied, was arrested as he tried to enter the military court, his lawyer Anouar Awled told Reuters.

Makhlouf was wanted by a military court for allegedly insulting security staff at the airport months ago, Awled said. Plainclothes agents detained Makhlouf and took him away in a car, a video Awled posted online showed.

Rights groups have pushed the release of another parliament member, Yassin Ayari, and have criticised the use of military courts to try civilians. They have also voiced concern at travel bans for people wanted on a variety of charges.

Saied has defended his intervention, rejected accusations of a coup and pledged to uphold rights. On Friday Saied said nobody would be stopped from travel unless subject to an existing case.

While his seizure of powers and freezing of parliament appeared to be broadly popular, opposition among major political players has grown since one of his advisers told Reuters last week that Saied was planning to suspend the constitution. https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/tunisian-president-plans-change-political-system-suspend-constitution-adviser-2021-09-09

A powerful labour union and several major political parties have since said they would not accept any changes to the constitution that are not passed in a constitutional manner.

Civil society activists have called a first protest against Saied for Saturday, a demonstration that may provide an indication of how the security services plan to handle direct public opposition to the president's moves.

Saied has lifted immunity for parliament members, leaving them open to a variety of prosecutions and several have since been detained or put under investigation.

 

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