Tunisian president accuses foreign critics of recent arrests as “interfering”

Tunisian president accuses foreign critics of recent arrests as “interfering”
Photo: Tunisian President Kais Saied / Source: Creative Commons

Tunisian President Kais Saied struck back at foreigners critical of his human rights record on Thursday. Accusing them of interfering, he called on his foreign minister to summon diplomats and “inform them that Tunisia is an independent state”, according to AFP.

On Tuesday, the European Union and the United States expressed concern about Saied’s silencing of critics ahead of an election later this year. This follows a wave of arrests of journalists, lawyers and NGOs including the dramatic apprehension of a leading lawyer and critic on Saturday. The weekend detainments lead to protests in Tunisia.

"We didn't interfere in their affairs when they arrested protesters... who denounced the war of genocide against the Palestinian people," Saied said in a televised meeting. 

Saied came to power democratically in 2019 but two years later he consolidated power and ruled by degree. In 2022, Saied enacted Decree 54 which carries a five-year imprisonment penalty for those found guilty of “spreading false information.”

Since then, more than 60 people – including journalists, lawyers and opposition figures – have been arrested, according to the National Union of Tunisian Journalists.

It said on Wednesday that Decree 54 was "a deliberate attack on the essence of press freedom and a vain attempt to intimidate journalists and media employees and sabotage public debate".

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