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Tunisia coup: Ennahda party official Anouar Maarouf under house arrest

The former minister is the first Ennahda official to be targeted in the crackdown following President Saied's power grab
Anouar Maarouf, 51, is the former Minister of Communication Technologies and Digital Economy (Wikimedia)

Tunisia's interior ministry has placed Anouar Maarouf, a senior official in the Ennahda party, under house arrest, according to Reuters and several local media outlets.

Maarouf is a former minister of communications technology and one of Ennahda's most prominent leaders. He is the first official in the party to be held under house arrest since President Kais Saied's power grab on 25 July, which Ennahda has branded as "a constitutional coup."

It remains unclear what charges Maarouf is facing. The development comes a day after Saied said there was "no turning back" from his decision to freeze parliament and assume executive power, moves his opponents have warned could usher in authoritarian rule.

Tunisia coup: Saied says there is 'no turning back' as Ennahda pushes for dialogue
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Speaking in a video published by his office, Saied also rejected calls for talks over the crisis, saying "there is no dialogue except with the honest", and that no dialogue was possible with "cancer cells".

Ennahda, the biggest party in parliament, which has been the most vocal opponent of Saied's moves, had called for dialogue in a statement earlier on Thursday.

The Islamic democratic party stressed its "commitment to dialogue with all national actors, foremost of whom the President, in order to overcome the complex crisis, achieve social peace and implement the necessary reforms.”

It also called on Tunisians to continue “peaceful activism for a democratic Tunisia that ends all forms of despotism, corruption and totalitarianism and all forms of extremism, exclusion and violence.”

Some 11 days after his intervention, Saied has not named a new prime minister, announced any steps to end the emergency or declared his longer-term intentions.

Resistance to Saied 

The country's powerful Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), as well as both the United States and France, have called on the president to quickly appoint a new government. 

Middle East Eye has learned from Tunisian and Italian sources that ambassadors from Germany, Italy and the US have all told Saied to restitute parliament as soon as possible.

The US stopped him from holding a mass rally in favour of his power grab, informed Tunisian sources told MEE's editor-in-chief David Hearst. They have all passed messages of support to Rached Ghannouchi, the speaker of parliament and head of Ennahda, as well as other party leaders.

Tunisia's transition to democracy is viewed as the sole success story of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, many of which were violently put down or became civil wars. 

Saied insists that his power grab is not meant to derail Tunisia from its democratic path. But his moves were followed by a crackdown on critics, including a raid of Al Jazeera's offices in Tunis and the issuing of arrest warrants against several lawmakers and legal advocates.

Authorities have also opened probes against the country's two largest parties, Ennahda and Heart of Tunisia, based on allegations that they received foreign funds during the 2019 election campaign.