Human Lives Human Rights: At least ten people have been arrested in a week by Tunisian authorities and cracked down on high-profile critics and perceived opponents of President Kais Saied.
President Saied has branded those arrested as “terrorists” and accused them of conspiring to undermine the state and manipulate food prices to foment social tension, in videotaped remarks posted on 14 February on his official Facebook page.
They include political figures, lawyers, a former government minister, and the director of a leading radio station, according to lawyers and family members.
In at least three cases, the authorities have arrested people under a law that could carry the death penalty and, in at least five cases, the authorities failed to present evidence of wrongdoing by those arrested, according to lawyers. The grounds for other arrests remain unclear.
Lawyers and family members of five of those arrested described a series of early morning or evening raids on their homes by up to 20 anti-terrorism police.
Some were denied access to a lawyer for at least 24 hours.
Security forces this week also arbitrarily arrested Lazhar Akremi, a well-known lawyer and political figure who has criticised the authorities in the media, and Noureddine Boutar, director of Radio Mosaique, a popular station that has given voice to criticism of President Saied.
Arresting people on vague claims of conspiracy flies in the face of basic human rights.
This latest round of arrests is a deliberate attempt to quash dissent including criticism of the president.
President Saied should call off this politically motivated witch hunt. The authorities should focus instead on finding real solutions to help alleviate the suffering of those hit hard by Tunisia’s crumbling economy.
Since President Saied’s power grab of 25 July 2021, the authorities have arrested, investigated or prosecuted at least 32 people in relation to their peaceful criticism of the authorities.