A Tunisian military judge has jailed two politicians from the Karama party, a lawyer and the judiciary said, amid growing concerns for human rights after the president seized governing powers in July.
On Tuesday the court jailed Nidal Saudi and Saif Eddine Makhlouf, a leader of the Karama party and a frequent critic in parliament of President Kais Saied, taking the total number of imprisoned MPs to five.
Saudi was ordered to be jailed for allegedly insulting security staff at the airport months ago, his lawyer Ines Harrath said.
Makhlouf, who was detained and released last week when he tried to attend a court hearing against himself, was imprisoned after being refused permission to represent Saudi as a lawyer.
A statement by the military judiciary said the judge had ordered Makhlouf to be jailed because he had made a threat to a military judge and accused military judges of being involved in what Makhlouf had described as a “coup”.
Saied dismissed the prime minister, suspended parliament and assumed all governing powers on July 25 but he has yet to name a new premier or declare a road map for the future, raising concerns over his intentions.
Rights groups have pushed for the release of another parliament member, Yassin Ayari, and have criticised the use of military courts to try civilians. They have also voiced concern over travel bans for people wanted on a variety of charges.
Saied has defended his intervention, rejected accusations of a coup and pledged to uphold rights. He said on Monday he had instituted transitional governing rules and would introduce a new electoral law.
Meanwhile, Tunisia’s Ennahdha party said that Saied’s recent measures to extend his powers risked setting in motion the “dismantling” of the state.
Ennahdha formed the largest bloc in parliament before the president’s shock move.
“The maintenance of the exceptional measures indefinitely, along with the absence of a legitimate government and the suspension of the elected parliament threaten to lead to the dismantling of the state,” Ennahdha said in a statement on Tuesday.
Such factors also risk “exacerbating the economic, financial and social” crisis currently besetting the country, the party added.
Saied’s desired “transitional measures” amount to a “determination to repeal the constitution that Tunisians unanimously adopted,” Ennahdha added.
Street protests in early 2011 toppled longtime Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, setting in motion a transition to a parliamentary democracy solidified by a 2014 constitution.
Tunisia has won praise for that transition but many citizens now feel their quality of life has worsened in the face of grinding economic, social and political crises, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.