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Tunisia rocked by alleged recording of Saied's ex-aide on his 'grave psychological' state

Nadia Akacha purportedly heard saying former boss was trembling when meeting Macron and that his 'end will be very dire'
Nadia Akacha, a former senior advisor and chief of staff to the Tunisian president, attends the new government swearing-in ceremony at Carthage Palace in Tunis, 2 September 2020 (AFP)

Allegations of further splits in the team behind Kais Saied intensified over the weekend when audio recordings purportedly of the Tunisian president's ex-chief of staff warning about his "grave psychological" condition were leaked.

In the recordings, someone alleged to be Nadia Akacha is heard saying that Saied's "end will be very dire, because he is sick and does not want to admit his illness, and insists on that". The woman added that Saied "suffers on a very personal and psychological level".

The recordings say Saied has a doctor monitoring him and the president, who seized control of Tunisia in a power grab in July, "will face a grave crisis with this type of health condition, while he receives little treatment".

"Those around him from his family... increased his suffering," the woman added, concluding that it will be "natural for him to reach a crisis".

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'It is not my fault that he started trembling when meeting Macron. Rather, it is his fault because of his psyche'

- Nadia Akacha, former chief of staff

In another voice recording released on Friday, a voice - also purportedly Akacha - mocked Saied, saying, "I know he is afraid. He called me three times from the phone of his residence, and I did not answer him."

She said that her critics accuse her of "falling into the arms of the outside," referring to foreign countries.

"But I did not kiss the shoulders, and I was not like Saied, trembling when I saw [French President Emmanuel] Macron. It is not my fault that he started trembling when meeting Macron. Rather, it is his fault because of his psyche, and he who threw himself to kiss the man," she added.

The alleged voice of Akacha is heard warning that she could cause an earthquake in Tunisia if she revealed what she knew. The recordings were widely shared on social media and reported by Tunisian news sites over the weekend.

Akacha denies the recordings are genuine, saying that they were doctored as part of a "campaign of distortion" against her.

Middle East Eye could not independently verify the voice recordings. The Tunisian presidency has not responded to requests for comment.

'Group of losers'

Akacha was Saied's closest aide when the president dismissed the government and suspended parliament in July in a move condemned as a constitutional coup.

Since his power grab, Saied, a former law professor who was elected as president in 2019, has consolidated power to rule and legislate by decree, seizing control of the judiciary.

In March, he dissolved the suspended parliament, and some MPs have been jailed on charges of insulting the president and conspiring against the state.

Saied's plans were first revealed by Middle East Eye in April 2021, when a document outlining the moves he would make to seize power was obtained from Akacha's office.

Akacha quit her role in January, citing "fundamental disagreements" with the administration as the president's post-coup policies faced growing criticism, and now lives in Paris. Last week, she branded Saied and his circle as a "group of losers who do not understand anything" in a Facebook post.

Akacha, who still spoke highly of last year's coup, wrote that "unfortunately this moment and this path were seized by someone who has no honour, no religion, no patriotism," in a thinly veiled reference to Saied.

Saied's critics have pounced on this weekend's leaks, saying they represent in-fighting and divisions among the president's supporters.

'The Tunisian people have the right to know the physical and psychological conditions of the head of the state'

- Ghazi Chaouachi, politican

Abdul Latif al-Alawi, an MP from the Dignity Coalition, told al-Araby newspaper that "these leaks reflect the state of fighting within the coup system, which is an advanced and perilous stage, and you could call it: 'revenge myself on my enemies'."

Alawi was sentenced in April by a military court to three months in prison after he appeared on a TV show criticising Saied. He was accused of conspiring to change the structure of the state.

Alawi added: "Tunisia today is facing the naked truth at a dangerous crossroads, and regardless of Saied's condition and the validity of the leaks or not, we want the return of legitimacy and democracy."

Ghazi Chaouachi, the leader of the Democratic Current party, said on Facebook: "The Tunisian people have the right to know the physical and psychological conditions of the head of the state, especially after he has taken over all the powers and has become the sole ruler of everything."

Last month, veteran Tunisian opposition figure Ahmed Nejib Chebbi announced the creation of a new alliance to "rescue" the country from political deadlock.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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