Tunisian Pundits Arrested Over Critical Comments

Tunisian Pundits Arrested Over Critical Comments
Tunisian Pundits Arrested Over Critical Comments

Tunisian authorities ordered the arrest of two political commentators over critical comments, a lawyer said, a day after security forces stormed the bar association and took a third pundit into custody.

Sonia Dahmani, who is also a lawyer, was arrested after criticizing the state of Tunisia on television, her attorney Dalila Msaddek said in a post on Facebook.

Msaddek said there was a "police attack against the bar association headquarters" in Tunis, with "lawyers assaulted and the abduction of colleague Sonia Dahmani to an unknown location".

It came on the same evening that TV and radio presenter Borhen Bssais and political commentator Mourad Zeghidi were arrested for critical comments, lawyer Ghazi Mrabet said.

Mrabet said that the judiciary placed the pair under a "48-hour detention warrant and they will have to appear before an examining magistrate".

The exact motivation for Basis's arrest remains unclear, but according to Mrabet, he was detained under Decree 54 which punishes the production and dissemination of "false news".

The law, signed by President Kais Saied in September 2022, has been criticized by journalists and opposition figures who say it has been used to stifle dissent.

Since the decree came into force, more than 60 journalists, lawyers and opposition figures have been prosecuted under it, according to the National Union of Tunisian Journalists.

Dahmani was also arrested under Decree 54, Tunisian media reported, saying she was detained while seeking safety at the bar association.

The bar association condemned what it described as an "invasion of its headquarters and blatant aggression", demanding the immediate release of Dahmani and announcing a regional strike starting Monday.

The North African country is a key departure point for thousands of migrants who risk the perilous Mediterranean Sea crossing each year hoping for a better life in Europe.