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Tunisian lawmaker detained trying to attend own court hearing

·2-min read

TUNIS (Reuters) -An opposition member of parliament in Tunisia was detained on Friday when he tried to attend a court hearing against himself, his lawyer said, adding to concern for human rights after the president seized extra powers in July.

Saif Eddine Makhlouf, a leader of the conservative Karama party and a frequent critic in parliament of President Kais Saied, was arrested by plainclothes agents as he tried to enter the military court, his lawyer Anouar Awled told Reuters.

The agents took Makhlouf away in a car, a video Awled posted online showed.

The judge hearing his case at the military court later ordered his release and said he must appear in court on Sept. 27, his lawyer said, without saying why he had been detained. Officials were not immediately available for comment.

Makhlouf was wanted by the military court for allegedly insulting security staff at the airport months ago, Awled said.

Rights groups have pushed for the release of another parliament member, Yassin Ayari, and have criticised the use of military courts to try civilians. They have also voiced concern at travel bans for people wanted on a variety of charges.

Saied has rejected accusations of a coup and pledged to uphold rights, arguing that his intervention was needed to save the country from corruption and political paralysis. On Friday he said nobody would be stopped from travel unless subject to an existing case.

While his seizure of powers and freezing of parliament appeared to be broadly popular, opposition among major political players has grown since one of his advisers told Reuters last week that Saied was planning to suspend the constitution. https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/tunisian-president-plans-change-political-system-suspend-constitution-adviser-2021-09-09

A powerful labour union and several major political parties have since said any changes to the constitution must be passed in a constitutional manner.

Civil society activists have called a first protest against Saied for Saturday, a test of how the security services plan to handle direct public opposition to the president's moves.

Saied has lifted immunity for parliament members, leaving them open to a variety of prosecutions, and several have since been detained or put under investigation.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Alex Richardson and Philippa Fletcher)

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