Tunisian opposition spokesman and critic of President Kais Saied detained

Abdelfattah Taghouti was detained by a national guard unit, the Ennahdha party said

The Ennahda party's information officer Abdelfattah Taghouti at a press conference in Tunis on March 11. EPA
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The spokesman of Tunisia's Ennahdha party has been detained, the party said on Wednesday, as it denounced the latest arrest of a prominent critic of President Kais Saied.

Abdelfattah Taghouti was detained by a national guard unit on Tuesday evening, Ennahdha said, and it demanded his immediate release.

More than 20 political figures have been arrested in the North African country in recent weeks, including members of the main opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, and its main component, Ennahdha.

In its statement on Wednesday, the party condemned a “campaign of arbitrary arrests aimed at diverting attention from the failings of the regime.”

Mr Saied froze parliament in July 2021, pushing through sweeping changes to the country's political system which have concentrated near-total power in his office.

The President has described those detained as terrorists. They include several businessmen and the director of the country's most popular private radio station.

Police officers stand guard outside the Tunisian parliament building as the new assembly holds its first session in Tunis on March 13. EPA

The newly-elected Tunisian parliament convened on Monday and voted for Ibrahim Bouderbela as its Speaker, succeeding Ennahdha leader Rached Ghannouchi, whose party held the majority in the previous parliament.

Mr Bouderbela, a former dean of the Tunisian Lawyers' Bar and member of Mr Saied's constitutional drafting committee, previously announced he would be working to form a “pro-July 25" parliamentary block once the House of Representative began its work.

Monday’s session marked the first parliamentary activity since the President suspended the previous parliament in July 2021.

Tunisia's main opposition coalition has declared it will not recognise the new parliament, the members of which were chosen in December and January in elections boycotted by the President's opponents and ignored by much of the public. Just 11 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots.

Years of political deadlock and a stagnant economy followed the ousting of former Tunisian president Ben Ali in 2011. Mr Saied has promised to revive the country's economy but has faced a wave of different challenges, particularly following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which has sent commodity prices soaring for the import-dependent country.

Updated: March 16, 2023, 9:08 AM