On Sunday, hundreds of people protested in the Tunisian capital demanding the release of around 20 opponents of President Kais Saied who were arrested since February.
The main opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, organised the rally where approximately 300 demonstrators from opposition parties waved Tunisian flags and carried signs with the images of detainees.
Since February 2022, North African authorities arrested over 20 political opponents, personalities, politicians, former ministers, businessmen, trade unionists, and the owner of Mosaique FM, Tunisia’s most popular radio station.
Local and international rights groups have criticised these arrests. During the rally, Samir Ben Amor, an official with the Al-Joumhouri (Republican) party, called for a “national dialogue in order to draw up a roadmap to save Tunisia and return to the democratic path”.
President Saied, who froze parliament and sacked Tunisia’s government in July 2021, claimed that those arrested were “terrorists” involved in a “conspiracy against state security”.
However, his opponents accuse him of reinstating autocratic rule in the only democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East region over a decade ago.
Amnesty International criticised these arrests and urged authorities to release the detainees on “unfounded” charges.
Tunisia’s mounting debt and rising prices, worsened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, add to the country’s turbulent political situation.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned last month that Tunisia urgently needs to reach a deal with the International Monetary Fund, adding to the European Union’s warnings about the future of the country.