TUNIS, July 30 (Reuters) – The Tunisian president on Friday pledged not to turn into a dictator and rejected accusations he staged a coup after two parliamentarians were arrested following his decision to lift their immunity when he took control of the government this week. .
Tunisia was plunged into a political crisis by President Kais Saied’s decision on Sunday to sack the prime minister and freeze parliament for 30 days, leading major parties to accuse him of a coup. Read more
Saied has yet to take the steps critics say are necessary to reassure Tunisians, including appointing an interim prime minister and a roadmap to end emergency measures.
“I know the constitutional texts very well, I respect them and I have taught them and after all this time I will not turn into a dictator as some have said,” said the presidency, quoting the former law professor.
Concerns about rights and freedoms in Tunisia, a democracy since the 2011 revolution, increased on Friday after the arrest of parliamentarian and influential blogger Yassin Ayari and the announcement of investigations into allegations of violence committed by people protesting against them. Saied’s actions during a demonstration Monday.
Military justice said Ayari was jailed by a court ruling issued three years ago for defaming the military. Saied on Sunday lifted the immunity of members of parliament, leaving all cases against them subject to arrest.
Another MP, Maher Zid of the conservative Muslim Karama party, was arrested Friday evening, according to his lawyer, after being sentenced to two years in prison in 2018 for offending people on social media and insulting the then president. .
On Monday, the largest party in parliament, moderate Islamist Ennahda, staged a sit-in outside parliament after being surrounded by the military. Hundreds of Ennahda and Saïed supporters clashed, some throwing stones or bottles.
Justice said it had opened investigations into four people linked to Ennahda for “attempting to commit acts of violence” during the demonstration, including a member of a party council and two members with links to its leader.
Saied’s decision to take control of the executive appears to have broad popular support in Tunisia, where years of poor governance, corruption, political paralysis and economic stagnation have been compounded this year by a deadly increase in cases of COVID-19.
The United States delivered 1 million doses of the Moderna vaccine to Tunisia on Friday via the Covax program, the American embassy in Tunis announced.
Saied moved the country’s COVID-19 nighttime curfew to 10 p.m. from 7 p.m. on Friday. Despite the political crisis, there have been no signs of unrest in Tunisia since the protest outside parliament on Monday.
Washington has been a staunch supporter of Tunisian democracy since the revolution. Read more
“We urge President Saied to provide a clear roadmap and swiftly lift emergency measures and unfreeze parliament,” State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter said on Friday.
Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Alison Williams, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Joe Bavier, Clelia Oziel and Daniel Wallis
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