Tunisian judge investigating opposition leader over radio interview


FILE PHOTO: Secretary general of Attayar party, Ghazi Chaouachi, attends an interview with Reuters in Tunis, Tunisia September 23, 2021. REUTERS/Jihed Abidellaoui/File Photo

TUNIS (Reuters) - Ghazi Chaouachi, head of a Tunisian opposition party and prominent critic of President Kais Saied, will be questioned by a judge on Thursday over a radio interview accusing Saied of expanding his authoritarian tendency.

Chaouachi, a former government minister, said on local radio in May that Prime Minister Najla Bouden, whom Saied appointed in September‮ ‬2021, had resigned but that Saied had not accepted it.

Bouden later denied having resigned and Saied demanded a prosecutor confront rumours he said were undermining stability.

On Wednesday, a judge summoned Chaouachi to answer suspicions of disturbing public order and disrupting the government.

Chaouachi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

TUNISIAN OPPOSITION SAY THEY ARE BEING TARGETED

Chaouachi's case comes a day after Tunisia's Islamist opposition leader and speaker of the dissolved parliament Rached Ghannouchi appeared before a judge to answer questions over what his party has said are accusations relating to terrorism.

Ghannouchi, who was released after hours of investigation rejected accusation and said that are politically motivated.

Saied has entrenched one-man rule since seizing executive power last year, dismissing the parliament and moving to rule by decree, moves his foes call a coup. In July he passed a new constitution ratifying his expanded powers through a referendum.

Last week, he issued a decree mandating prison terms of five years for people spreading what he called false information online, a move that rights groups, opposition parties and the main journalists' union have said will undermine free speech.

‮"‬The party warns of the deepening authoritarian tendency of Saied and his preoccupation with harassing his opponents, as Tunisia suffers the most serious social and economic crisis, which portends an imminent social catastrophe.", Attayar party said.

Saied has rejected accusations that he is a dictator and says there has not been a retreat from the rights and freedoms Tunisians gained since the 2011 revolution.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Josie Kao)

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