Several international NGOs on Saturday expressed their concern about the situation in Tunisia since the head of state granted himself full powers after the arrest of independent MP Yassine Ayari, who is very critical of the army and the Tunisian president.
The arrest “confirms fears that President Saied may use his extraordinary powers against his opponents,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) director for North Africa, Eric Goldstein, said in a statement.
Independent MP and ex-blogger Yassine Ayari was arrested on Friday. Already condemned several times for his very critical speech against the army, he this week called the emergency regime established by the president a “military coup”. Tunisian military justice confirmed his arrest, pursuant to a judgment handed down at the end of 2018, which sentenced him to two months in prison for a publication critical of the army on Facebook, according to a statement.
Mr. Ayari previously enjoyed his parliamentary immunity. But when Tunisian President Kais Saied took full power and suspended parliament for 30 days citing the constitution on Sunday, he also lifted MPs’ immunity.
The Tunisian branch of the NGO Amnesty International also expressed its “concern” over the arrest of Mr. Ayari. It “strongly condemns the trial of civilians in military tribunals and opinion trials of all kinds. “
For its part, HRW is also concerned about the arrest of “four members of Ennahdha”, the Islamist-inspired party in power for 10 years in Tunisia. According to the American NGO, they were accused of having sought to “perpetrate violent acts” before Parliament.
An Ennahdha official confirmed the arrests to AFP, which took place earlier this week. The four people concerned were released on Friday without being prosecuted, he said. Tunisians are currently expressing fear of a return to repression, ten years after the revolution that brought down dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
On Friday, Saied said there was “no fear” about free speech, saying he “hates dictatorship.” He explained that the arrests only concerned people already on trial. On Saturday, the Tunisian I Watch association published a list of 14 MPs who are facing prosecution and therefore risk arrest.
In a New York Times column, Ennahdha leader Rached Ghannouchi once again accused President Saied of taking actions that violate the constitution. “These decisions follow the specifications for setting up a dictatorship,” said the President of the Tunisian Parliament. Dictatorship invariably leads to an increase in corruption, nepotism, violations of individual freedoms and inequalities. “