Tunisia detains Abir Moussi, prominent opponent of president: Lawyers

The arrest is the latest in a crackdown against President Kais Saied’s opponents.

Presidential candidate Abir Moussi gestures after casting her vote at a polling station during presidential election in Tunis, Tunisia September 15, 2019.
Moussi leads Tunisia's Free Constitutional Party and wants to defend the civil state [File: Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters]

Tunisian police have arrested Abir Moussi, a prominent opposition leader, at the entrance of the presidential palace. Moussi has been detained since Tuesday by Tunisia’s public prosecutor, her lawyers said.

“Moussi was detained for 48 hours in charges of processing personal data, obstructing the right to work, and assault intended to cause chaos,” lawyer Aroussi Zgir said, according to Reuters.

In a Facebook video, Moussi’s assistant shared that she was “kidnapped” in front of the Carthage Palace.

A post on her party’s Facebook page also stated that Moussi’s phone was seized and she was taken to an unknown destination before being sent to the police station.

Dozens of Moussi supporters gathered in front of the La Goulette police station, expressing their anger and pushing for her release.

As a heavy police contingent cordoned off the building, supporters shouted “No fear, no terror, Abeer, daughter of the people,” according to Al Arabiya.

Earlier on Tuesday, Moussi said in a video that she visited the presidential registry to file an appeal against a presidential decree. Moussi added that this necessary step before local elections expected at the end of the year would allow her to file an appeal in the Administrative Court.

Moussi’s official page confirmed that her arrest followed her sit-in in front of the Carthage Palace, because the Presidency of the Republic’s Registry Office rejected her grievance regarding the parliamentary elections.

Moussi was accompanied by the party’s lawyer and one of the execution officers to communicate advance demands that must be directed to the president before the appeal, they said.

Wave of opposition against Saied

Moussi has been leading the Free Destourian (Constitutional) Party since 2016 and supported late president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali who was toppled by mass protests in 2011.

Over the last few months, Moussi’s party has organised protests against Saied who they accuse of “ruling by his own command” and making “illegal” decisions, according to Al Arabiya. After becoming president in 2019, he shut down the elected parliament in 2021 and moved to rule by decree.

Saied has denied accusations of a coup and claims that his measures are an attempt to save the country from years of chaos. He has described those detained as “terrorists, traitors and criminals”, according to Reuters.

Multiple other Saied opponents have been protesting against the president. Five of them have joined jailed opposition leader Rached Ghannouchi in a hunger strike. Ghannouchi’s Ennahdha party has called the targeting of opposition figures an “expansion of coup authority”.

Moussi has also said that she is ready to make personal sacrifices to save Tunisia.

In this wave of opposition, more than 20 leading political figures have been arrested by Tunisian police on the grounds that they are plotting against state security.

Earlier this year, Monica Marks, a professor of politicis at New York University in Abu Dhabi, told Al Jazeera that arrests were taking place outside of the rule of law since charges had not been served.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies