A Tunisian military court over the weekend ordered the arrest of a journalist after he claimed the army had refused the president’s orders to close down the headquarters of the powerful UGTT labour union.
Military prosecutors said on Saturday they had begun investigating Salah Attia on suspicion of “harming public order” for saying the president had asked the army to close a powerful labour union’s headquarters and put political leaders under house arrest.
Police in civilian clothes arrested Attia in a cafe in the suburb of Ibn Khaldoun in the capital, a witness said.
President Kais Saied has been facing growing criticism that he seeks to consolidate one-man rule since seizing power last summer in a move his opponents called a coup. He subsequently set aside the 2014 constitution to rule by decree and dismissed the elected parliament.
The president last month called for a national dialogue to prepare a “new constitution for a new republic” and excluded main political parties. Other major players such as the UGTT refused to participate in what it said would be a dialogue with a predetermined outcome.
The leader of the UGTT, which has about a 1 million members, said on Thursday it was being “targeted” by authorities after it refused to participate in the talks.
Attia likened the current situation in Tunisia to the final days of the former authoritarian leader, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted in an uprising just over a decade ago for his extravagant life and oppressive rule.
His lavish lifestyle, as many Tunisians struggled economically, was widely regarded as a major catalyst of the 2011 Arab Spring protests that would later embroil Egypt, Syria, Libya, Bahrain and Yemen.
He was also accused of possessing illicit drugs, guns and purloined archaeological treasures in his palaces, as well as ordering the killings of those who opposed his 23-year grip on power.
Critics of President Saied say he’s seeking to consolidate one-man rule since seizing power last July.