Tunisian anti-terrorism police summoned the country’s main opposition figure for questioning on Friday as a political crisis deepens in the wake of President Kais Saied’s move to dissolve parliament and impose one-man rule.
Rached Ghannouchi, head of the Ennahdha party and speaker of the dissolved parliament, met police after investigations were opened into other legislators who had defied Saied.
The president demanded that investigations be carried out after members of parliament held an online session on Wednesday and voted to revoke all the emergency measures he imposed – despite his decree last summer suspending the chamber.
Ghannouchi, 81, was accused of “having plotted against state security, which is a dangerous precedent”, said party spokesman Imed Khemiri, who was also summoned for the same reasons.
On Thursday, Ghannouchi said at least 30 parliamentarians had been questioned by anti-terrorism police.
The president accused those who took part in the session, along with Ghannouchi whose office announced the move, of conspiring against state security and he ordered the justice department to open legal proceedings against them.
Last month Saied took control of the judiciary, replacing a top council, whose job was to ensure judicial independence, with judges he selected himself.
Saied’s moves raise the prospect of a crackdown on the opposition as Tunisia’s main players grow more active in opposing his attempts to remake the political system in what they call a coup.
“It’s a turning point in targeting his opponents,” said deputy parliament speaker Samira Chaouachi.
Saied has defended his seizure of most powers last summer as necessary to save Tunisia from a corrupt, self-serving elite he paints as responsible for years of political paralysis and economic stagnation.
He has also pledged to uphold the rights and freedoms won in a 2011 revolution that brought democracy, and so far there have been few arrests or attempts to silence critics.
However, late on Thursday Saied said he would not call new parliamentary elections yet despite dissolving the chamber, and railed against those who took part in Wednesday’s session.
“There will be no dialogue with those who tried a coup and seek to divide Tunisians,” he said, suggesting those who opposed his moves may not be allowed to run in future elections.