About 300 protesters gathered in Tunisia to demand the release of former ministers, businessmen and other opposition members who were detained.
Hundreds of supporters of Tunisia’s main opposition coalition have rallied to demand the release of some 20 jailed opponents of President Keith Saeed.
On Sunday, an opposition coalition known as the National Salvation Front held a vigil in front of the municipal theater in the center of the capital, Tunisia, amid a heavy deployment of security forces.
As many as 300 protesters gathered to defend former ministers, businessmen and others held since February, many holding pictures of people they called “political prisoners”.
They also held up slogans accusing Saeed of tyranny and sabotaging the country and the economy, and challenged the opposition’s arrest and trial campaign.
“Freedom! Freedom!” they chanted as they called for elections to be held before the scheduled October 2024 date.
In March, the European Parliament condemned Saeed’s “authoritarian tendencies” in a non-binding resolution, saying those arrested were “terrorists” involved in “conspiracies against national security.”
More than a decade ago, Tunisia was the only democracy in the region to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings, but Saeed suspended and then dissolved parliament in July 2021 as part of a power grab, allowing him to rule by decree.
Among those detained was Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the Islam-inspired Ennahda movement, which was the largest party in parliament before Saeed took power.
“They were imprisoned because they had exercised their legitimate right to dissent,” Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, head of the National Salvation Front, told protesters.
Counterterrorism officials questioned Ghannouchi for three hours on Friday as part of an investigation into allegations of a “conspiracy against national security.”
Former health minister Abdul Latif al-Makki told Al Jazeera that authorities arrested opposition figureheads with the aim of “throwing them in prison and silencing their voices that reject tyranny”.
“The Salvation Front will continue to act against the coup’s authority and put pressure on it to release the prisoners,” al-Makki said.
Al-Makki expressed opposition to the continued “systematic targeting of opponents through political trials not based on any evidence of guilt”.
He also said Saeed had only succeeded in suppressing the opposition, combating judicial independence, undermining democracy and establishing tyranny and injustice only after emergency measures were taken about two years ago.