The U.S. said the arrests “represent a disturbing escalation” by the Tunisian government against perceived dissenters.
Several global powers condemned the arrest of Tunisia’s political opponents, including main opposition leader Rached Ghannouchi, and warned against an escalating crackdown by President Kais Saied.
The arrest of former speaker Ghannouchi and the closure of the Baath party headquarters on Monday were “fundamentally inconsistent with the principles adopted by the Tunisians in their constitution,” Deputy State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said in a statement on Wednesday. .
The arrests “represent a troubling escalation” by the Tunisian government of perceived dissenters, he said.
He added that respect for freedom of expression and human rights is crucial to “US-Turkey relations”.
Authorities in the North African country have arrested more than 20 political critics and figures since early February who accused Saeed of staging a coup in a move to shut down parliament and rule by law before rewriting the constitution.
Following Ghannouchi’s arrest on Monday, a Tunisian investigating judge ordered him to be jailed on Thursday, his lawyer told Reuters.
Ghannouchi, 81, was charged with conspiring to endanger the internal security of the state and the decision to jail him came after an investigation that lasted eight hours, she added.
“The decision to jail Ghannouchi has been made simply because Ghannouchi expressed his opinion,” lawyer Monia Bouali told Reuters.
Ghannouchi’s official Facebook page published his comments after the judge’s decision, which said: “I am optimistic about the future… Tunisia is free.”
On Thursday, Malaysia’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying it was “deeply concerned” by the latest developments in Tunisia.
Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Zambry Abdul Kadir said in a statement: “Considering his health and age, we call for special consideration and consideration for Mr Rached Ghannouchi during this holy month of Ramadan. mercy.”
Earlier this week, the EU reviewed “the importance of respecting the right to a defense and a fair trial” in Tunisia.
“We also emphasize the fundamental principle of political pluralism,” said Tuesday’s statement. “These elements are essential to any democracy and form the basis of the EU-Tunisia partnership.”
Also on Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would speak to Tunisian authorities to express his concerns about Ghannouchi’s arrest.
“We have not yet been able to reach the Tunisian authorities by phone, but we will continue to try to reach them,” Erdogan said in a television interview.
“If we were able to talk to them, we would tell them we didn’t think it was appropriate,” he added.
The Islamist-inspired opposition Ba’ath party holds the most seats in Tunisia’s parliament before President Saeed dissolves parliament in July 2021 so he can rule by decree.
Saeed, 65, claimed the detainees were “terrorists” involved in “conspiracies against national security”.
Opponents have called his actions a “coup”, a return to authoritarian rule in the only democracy in the region that emerged from the Arab Spring uprisings more than a decade ago.
Speaking at the ceremony on Tuesday, Saeed called on the judiciary – which he took over last year – to “play its part in this phase the country is going through”.
Ghannouchi was exiled for more than two decades under the late dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, but returned after the country’s 2011 revolution to become a dominant figure in Tunisian politics.
He has appeared in court at least 10 times in recent months on a string of charges, including corruption, money laundering and helping armed fighters travel to Iraq and Syria.