Tunisian authorities jailed an opposition lawmaker Friday and charged four members of the powerful Islamist movement Ennahdha in the wake of the president’s decision to seize exceptional powers, according to Tunisian media reports.
The Ennahdha members were detained and brought before investigating judges who handed them charges of with trying to incite violence outside the parliament building after President Kais Saied’s announcement Sunday, according to the official TAP news agency.
Saied suspended parliament, lifted the immunity of parliament members, fired the prime minister and took control of the executive branch. He said the move was necessary to save the country amid public anger at the government over joblessness, rising prices and one of Africa’s worst coronavirus outbreaks.
Saied’s decision raised concerns about Tunisia’s young democracy. Critics “most notably Ennahdha” accused him of a coup. Ennahdha has been a major player in Tunisian legislative elections since the country’s 2011 revolution, which unleashed the Arab Spring uprisings across the region.
The next day, Ennahdha supporters skirmished with backers of the president outside parliament, but the crowd was eventually dispersed by police.
Among those detained Friday were the bodyguard of Ennahdha leader and parliament speaker Rachid Ghannouchi, his protocol officer and a member of the party’s advisory council, according to TAP. They were later reportedly released pending further investigation.
They are accused of inciting people from a working-class neighborhood close to parliament to bring sticks to carry out acts of violence during the rally.
The party did not immediately comment on the charges.
Also Friday, outspoken legislator Yassine Ayari was arrested outside his home, according to a Facebook post by his party, the Hope and Action Movement.
His lawyer Mokhtar Jemai said Ayari was apparently arrested in connection with a June 30 court conviction, but was not informed of the reason for conviction. Ayari has spoken out against the military and the government and faced legal problems in the past, but no longer enjoys parliamentary immunity because of the president’s decisions.
On Thursday, the president named a new interior minister, his first major appointment since the shakeup. Ridha Gharsallaoui, a former national security adviser to the presidency, will now head the Interior Ministry, which oversees domestic security, including policing.