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Tunisia coup: Two opposition MPs arrested after criticising power grab

Maher Zid and Mohamed Affes, both members of the Islamist Al-Karama party, are reportedly in provisional detention in connection with a military investigation
MPs of the Al-Karama coalition attend the first session of the new parliament following the October elections in the Tunisian capital Tunis, on 13 November 2019 (AFP)

Two members of an Islamist party in Tunisia have been arrested following last week's power grab by President Kais Saied.

Maher Zid and Mohamed Affes, both members of the Al-Karama party, were arrested by Tunisian security services, party head Seifeddine Makhlouf said on Facebook.

The two were placed in provisional detention in connection with a military investigation, he added.

Their arrest late Saturday comes a day after the detention of an independent MP, Yassine Ayari.

Ayari was arrested for branding Saied's decision last Sunday to suspend parliament and sack the prime minister and other top officials as a "military coup".

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Al-Karama is linked to the Ennahdha party, the largest party in Tunisia and the main opponent of the president.

According to Makhlouf, a lawyer critical of the president, Zid and Affes are wanted for having allegedly insulted police officers in March who prevented a woman from boarding a plane at the airport.

Affes is a former ultra-conservative cleric while Zid is an ex-journalist and blogger sentenced to two years in jail for having insulted late president Beji Caid Essebsi.

Saied has justified his actions, dismissing accusations that he had staged a "coup".

He said he acted within the constitution which allows the head of state to take unspecified exceptional measures in the event of an "imminent threat".

On Friday, he stressed he "hates dictatorship" and that there was "nothing to fear" concerning freedoms and rights in Tunisia.

Saied has also declared a crackdown on corruption, accusing 460 businessmen of embezzlement. 

The latest arrests comes as the United States called on Tunisia to swiftly return to its "democratic path".