One of Tunisia’s most well-known opposition leaders, Jaouhar Ben Mbarek, was arrested amid a wave of arrests against people opposed to the Kaïs Said government. The Tunisian opposition rejects the authoritarian drift that the president has developed since July 2021, when he assumed increasing powers and began to co-opt various state bodies.
Jaouhar Ben Mbarekone of the most important figures within the Tunisian National Salvation Front opposition coalition was arrested this Friday, February 24, extending the list of members belonging to the Tunisian opposition and critics of the form of government of President Kaïs Said who have been arrested in the last few days.
The National Salvation Front has suffered the majority of arrests in recent days: last Wednesday, February 22, they were also arrested shaima issa and Issam Chebileading members of the coalition, and Ezzeddine HazguiMbarek’s father and a well-known left-wing activist in Tunisia.
This coalition opposes the government policies launched over the last year and a half by Said, which have been widely criticized for their authoritarian overtones by a large part of the international community.
The charges presented against these people are the same: suspicion of organizing a gang to conspire against the internal security of the State. A mantra that has also been repeated in previous arrests during the month of February.
Wave of arrests against opponents in February
These three arrests are only a continuation of what was started by Said and his Administration on February 11. The initial detentions lasted for four days and arrested at least nine people, including five opponents or critics of the authorities, two judges, a businessman and the director of a radio station. All remain in custody, including a judge who is being held in a psychiatric hospital.
Opposition figures arrested on those days include Khayam Turki and Abdelhamid Jelassi, taken from their homes on February 11. Both were arrested in the name of a contested and controversial anti-terrorism law around their guarantees; As various NGOs denounce, it does not adequately protect against the abuse of detainees. Those arrested can be in police custody for 15 days without hearing their charges and cannot see a lawyer for the first two days, periods not acceptable in a common democratic system.
According to their lawyers, the two opposition members have been questioned about alleged links and meetings with citizens of the United States. Besides. Jelassi was questioned about critical statements he made to the media about President Saïd’s implementation of extraordinary measures in July 2021, which Jelassi described as a “coup”.
In a televised speech on February 14, President Saïd referred to those arrested without naming them as “terrorists” and “traitors” and accused them, before being formally charged by a court, of “conspiracy against the internal and external security of the State”
Saïd granted himself extraordinary powers on July 25, 2021 and announced that he would assume oversight of the public prosecution.
During these days, in addition to the arrests, investigations have been opened into such well-known figures as Rached Ghannouchileader of the Islamist Ennahda party, who has five cases against him and has to go to court to respond to them.
Human Rights Watch: “Saïd persecutes his critics with impunity”
The international organization most critical of what has happened in these weeks in Tunisia is the NGO Human Rights Watch, which through its director in that country, Salsabil Chellali, stated that “the message in these arrests is that if you dare to raise your voice , the president can have you arrested and publicly denounce you while his henchmen try to build a file against you based on comments you made or who you met with.”
“After taking charge of the prosecution and firing judges left and right, President Saïd now persecutes his critics with complete impunity,” Chellali concluded.
Human Rights Watch published a report compiling what the organization understands as “violations” of democracy perpetrated in recent months.
Tunisia experienced a democratic process after the Arab Spring of 2011, a protest movement that overthrew the Ben Ali regime and brought free elections to the North African nation. However, this political change was not accompanied by economic progress, and the generalized crisis was compounded by a series of political instabilities derived from the confrontation between the parties that led that revolution and, especially, misgivings about the rise to power of Islamist parties, such as the Muslim Brotherhood. .
With EFE, AP and local media