Tunisian security forces arrest MP who criticised president

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TUNIS (Reuters) – Tunisian security forces arrested a member of parliament at his home on Friday, his wife said, after he criticised President Kais Saied on Facebook and called his seizure of governing powers a coup.

Yassin Ayari, who represents a small party in parliament, has previously expressed frequent criticism of Saied, who on Sunday dismissed the prime minister, froze parliament for a month and said he was taking over executive authority.

Neither the security forces nor the judiciary were immediately available for comment on his arrest.

Ayari’s wife, Cyrine Fitouri, said by phone that about 20 men in plain clothes who introduced themselves as members of a presidential security unit had raided their home earlier on Friday and used violence as they detained him.

“They took him forcefully while his mother was shouting,” she said, adding that they had told the family not to film them as they took him away.

Saied on Thursday said he would uphold freedoms and rights of Tunisians as the United States urged him to return the country to “the democratic path” and key civil society groups said he must uphold the constitution.

His actions appear to have widespread popular support in Tunisia, where years of misgovernance, corruption, political paralysis and economic stagnation have been aggravated this year by a deadly surge in COVID-19 cases.

When he announced his seizure of governing powers on Sunday he also said he would take over public prosecutions and lifted the immunity of parliament members.

The judiciary, which has declared its political independence, said this week it had previously opened investigations into three political parties that have opposed Saied, and has now started investigations into several lawmakers.

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