Tunisia: new arrests, UN denounces "aggravation of repression

 The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights denounced Tuesday "the worsening of the repression" in Tunisia, after the Tunisian police arrested Noureddine Bhiri on Monday, an Islamo-Conservative leader Ennahda, as well as Noureddine Boutar, the director general of private radio Mosaic FM, who often gives the floor to the opposition.

In Tunisia, a leader of the Islamo-Conservative Ennahda party and the director of a private radio station were arrested on the evening of Monday, February 13. These arrests occur as part of a net launched this weekend by the Tunisian security services and during which political activists, former magistrates and an influential businessman were arrested.

Ennahda leader Noureddine Bhiri, 64, was arrested and "taken to an unknown location" during a police raid in which around 100 officers participated in his home in Tunis, a spokesperson for Ennahda, Abdelfattah Taghouti, told AFP.

This former Minister of Justice had already been detained for more than two months in early 2022, five months after the president's coup Kaïs Saïed who had suspended the Parliament controlled by Ennahda, his pet peeve, and has since endeavored to marginalize him.

As soon as he was arrested, he had stopped eating and taking his medication before agreeing to be infused in a hospital where he had been transferred to detention. Despite his release, Noureddine Bhiri was still under investigation for suspicions of "terrorism", according to the authorities.

"Compliance against state security"

The police also arrested Noureddine Boutar on Monday evening, the director general of private radio Mosaic FM, widely listened to in Tunisia, announced this media. According to the radio website, which often gives voice to the opposition, a search was conducted at his home and his family was not informed of the reasons which led to his arrest.

On Saturday, the Tunisian police arrested businessman Kamel Eltaïef, very influential in political circles and for a long time the gray eminence of the deposed president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, as well as two opponents, Abdelhamid Jelassi, ex-leader of Ennahda, and a political activist, Khayam Turki, as well as two former magistrates.

Shadow Man, Kamel Eltaïef, 68, is seen by many Tunisians as one of the symbols of corruption since the years of Ben Ali. A lobbyist with strong diplomatic connections, Kamel Eltaïef has made and defeated careers in the police and on the political scene.

According to local media, those arrested this weekend are suspected of "plotting against state security".

"Preoccupation" of the UN

On Tuesday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, denounced "the worsening of the repression" in Tunisia in reference to the series of arrests.

At a press briefing in Geneva, his spokesperson, Jeremy Laurence, said that Volker Türk was expressing "its concern at the worsening of the repression against those who are perceived as political opponents and civil society in Tunisia, in particular through measures taken by the authorities which continue to undermine the independence of the judiciary".

"Since Saturday, at least nine people, including former officials, have reportedly been arrested and some detained on security or corruption charges," he said.

> > Also read : From the coup de force of Kaïs Saïed to the legislative, how Tunisia got bogged down in the crisis

"The United Nations Human Rights Office has observed that the Attorney General has increasingly brought criminal proceedings against alleged opponents, accusing them of 'conspiracy against state security, offense to the head of state or violation of the anti-cybercrime decree law, "said Jeremy Laurence.

"We are further concerned that some of the people detained for criticizing the government have been tried by military courts. We call on the authorities to immediately cease the practices of trying civilians before military courts, "he continued.

The High Commission calls on the Tunisian authorities to respect the standards of due process and a fair trial and to "immediately release" all persons arbitrarily detained, including any person detained in connection with the exercise of their rights to freedom of opinion or expression.

The UN also denounced the "series of measures" taken since July 2021 by the Tunisian authorities "which have undermined the independence of the judiciary, in particular the dissolution of the Superior Council of the Magistrature and the dismissal without notice of 57 judges".

Since President Saïed's coup, several politicians have been the subject of legal proceedings denounced by the opposition as well as the settling of scores.

The opposition accuses Kaïs Saïed of establishing an authoritarian regime repressing freedoms and threatening democracy in Tunisia, where the first revolt of the Arab Spring had overthrown in 2011 the dictatorship of Ben Ali.

With AFP and Reuters


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