Tunisia's Saied places senior Ennahda official under house arrest

Tunisia's Saied places senior Ennahda official under house arrest
2 min read
06 August, 2021
Anouar Maarouf, a leading figure in the Ennahda party, has been placed under house arrest with no clear charges.
President Kais Saied has been accused of attempting a power grab [Getty]

Tunisia's Interior Ministry has placed a senior official in the Islamist Ennahda party under house arrest, nearly two weeks after President Kais Saied ordered exceptional measures, raising fears of an authoritarian drift.

The ministry has not specified the charges against Anouar Maarouf, a former minister of communication technology and one of Ennahda's prominent leaders, according to Reuters and local media.

On Wednesday, Ennahda’s highest body, the Shura Council, had described President Saied's steps since July 25 as a "coup against the constitution."

Last week, security forces arrested two MPs from an Islamist party allied to Ennahdha, Maher Zid and Mohamed Affes. Judge Bechir Akremi was placed under house arrest for 40 days. Other Islamist MPs have also been arrested.

Saied has ordered a graft crackdown targeting 460 businessmen and an investigation into alleged illegal funding of political parties.

Saied has been accused of attempting to resurrect autocratic rule in a country hailed as the only success story in the Arab Spring. Albeit suspending parliament for 30 days on July 25 and dismissing four ministers and other top officials, the President said he would “not turn into a dictator.”  

On Thursday, the former law lecturer announced there would be “no turning back” from his decision to freeze parliament and assume executive power and that there would be "no dialogue except with the honest."

Tunisia's powerful trade union body UGTT has urged the President to form a new government after Hichem Mechichi was sacked as both premier and interior minister.

The UGTT -- which played a key role in the 2011 Arab Spring uprising -- said Saied had acted "in accordance" with the constitution to "prevent imminent danger and to restore the normal functioning" of the state.

The union has called Saied’s measures "a definitive solution to the complexity of the crisis the country is going through in the absence of any other solutions".

UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet voiced her concerns about the political turmoil in Tunisia in a phone call with the Foreign Minister Othman Jerandi and offered her assistance.