Tunisian opposition politician barred from travel – Reuters

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TUNIS, Nov 16 (Reuters) – The head of a Tunisian political party who is a prominent opponent of President Kais Saied said he was stopped from leaving the country on Wednesday, fuelling concerns over the right to dissent and democratic pluralism.

Fadel Abdel Kefi, the head of the Afek Tounes party, said police stopped him at Carthage international airport and prevented him travelling, but without any judicial warrant.

The move comes a day after police started investigating a domestic journalist over an article critical of the prime minister and in the run-up to legislative elections that Saied’s opponents have decried as undemocratic.

Saied seized broad powers last year, shut down the elected parliament and held a referendum to enshrine near absolute presidential power buttressed by a weakened legislature in a new constitution.

An Interior Ministry official told Reuters a Tunis court had issued a judicial decision to prevent Abdel Kefi from travelling, adding that the ministry was not empowered to take such a step independently.

Abdel Kefi told Reuters he had not been made aware of any judicial decision against him. “Is it reasonable for a decision to be issued without my knowledge?” he said, calling the move a “violation of a basic right”.

Rights groups have warned that Saied’s moves have put at risk Tunisia’s democracy and the rights and freedoms won after a 2011 revolution.

However, there has been no major campaign of arrests or crackdown on dissent, and Saied has denied having dictatorial ambitions.

Abdel Kafi has emerged in recent months as a prominent critic of the president’s seizure of most powers, saying he acts like a king and has not improved governance or saved the faltering economy.

He has also called for most of Saied’s new constitution to be revoked and for a balance of power between different branches of government to be restored.

Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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