Escalating Crackdown: Tunisia Arrests Prominent Opposition Figure

Abir Moussi is the latest prominent opponent of President Kais Saied to have been detained or imprisoned. Her party alleges she was forced into a car and taken to a security center.

Tunisian police detained the leader of an opposition party Tuesday night outside the presidential palace, her party said. Abir Moussi, the head of the Free Destourian Party (FDL) and an outspoken critic of President Kais Saied, wanted to file an appeal over local elections expected at the end of the year.

Instead, her party said she was forced into a car and taken to a security center in a Tunisian suburb. Her lawyers were denied access to her, the party added.

“What happened was a kidnapping in front of the presidency, and she is being held at the police station,” lawyer Nafaa Laribi said.

There have been no comments from Tunisian authorities.

Moussi is a supporter of late president Zine El Abidine ben Ali, the dictator who was ousted after mass protests in 2011.

Wave of opposition arrests

Several politicians, activists, and critics of Saied have been detained since 2021.

In April, Rached Ghannouchi, the leader of the main opposition party, Ennahda, was sentenced to a year in jail in May on charges of incitement and plotting against state security.

He held a three-day hunger strike over the weekend in support of other imprisoned opposition figures.

Jawher Ben Mbarak, a prominent opposition figure detained for more than seven months, also began an open-ended hunger strike last week, arguing that his imprisonment was politically motivated.

Among those arrested by the Tunisian police were Issam Chebbi, head of the opposition Republican Party, prominent Saied-critic Ezzedine Hazgui, and Chaima Issa and Jaouhar Ben M’barek, both leading members of the National Salvation Front, Tunisia’s coalition of oppositional parties.

Many had accused Saied of carrying out a coup after he closed parliament, began to rule by decree, and rewrote the constitution.

Saied has defended his actions, saying they were necessary to prevent Tunisia from falling into chaos, and has described those detained as “terrorists, traitors and criminals.”

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