Tunis: Tunisia’s interior ministry on Thursday denied that former prime minister Hamadi Jebali had been arrested, contradicting a report from his old party and a notice on his official Facebook page.
The moderate Islamist Ennahda party said Jebali had been detained, demanded his release and accused the authorities of cracking down on dissent.
The statement on the 73-year-old’s Facebook page also said he had been arrested, without saying when or going into further details.
The interior ministry said Jebali had not been arrested. It issued a statement saying prosecutors had launched an investigation into a factory on land owned by Jebali’s wife, and that he had insisted on accompanying her to the police station.
Jebali himself did not immediately respond to phone calls seeking comment.
Ennahda was the biggest party in Tunisia’s parliament before President Kais Saied dissolved the assembly and seized executive powers last year.
The party and other critics called the president’s move a coup. Saied said the move was temporary and needed to save Tunisia from he saw as a corrupt, self-serving elite.
Meanwhile, President Kais Saied said he opposes the presence of foreign election observers, as the country gears up for a referendum and legislative polls later this year.
“We are not an occupied country to send observers to,” he said during a swearing-in ceremony for members of a new elections authority.
Saied in July last year sacked the government and suspended parliament, prompting fears for democratic gains a decade after Tunisia’s revolution which sparked the Arab Spring uprisings.
He has since taken control of the judiciary and on April 22 gave himself powers to name three out of seven members of the electoral commission, including its chief.
The US State Department said it was deeply concerned by Saied’s decision to “unilaterally restructure” the body.
On Monday, Saied appointed Farouk Bouasker as its head, replacing Nabil Baffoun, a vocal critic of Saied’s power grab.
Tunisians are set to vote on constitutional reforms on July 25 and elect a new parliament on December 17. Saied’s critics say he wants to create a tame electoral commission ahead of those ballots.
His moves initially won widespread support from Tunisians fed up with the crisis-gripped political system, but his opponents accuse him of trying to restore autocracy in the North African country.