‘Down with the police state,’ chant thousands of protesters in Tunisia

Thousands of people marched through Tunisia's capital on Saturday, decrying an expanding crackdown on opposition voices and rising inflation as the country's largest trade union called on President Kais Saied to accept "dialogue".

The march organised by Tunisia’s powerful central trade union was the latest challenge to Tunisian President Kais Saied, whose leadership of the North African nation is prompting growing international concern.

Since taking office in October 2019, Saied has consolidated his power, dismantled the country's democratic gains and unleashed repression against migrants from elsewhere in Africa.

In the biggest crackdown since the president's power grab, police have arrested around 20 prominent political figures over the past two weeks, primarily Saied's opponents.

"Freedom, freedom, down with the police state," demonstrators chanted as they marched in Tunis on Saturday, also calling for "a halt to impoverishment" in the North African country.

Arrests condemned

UGTT chief Noureddine Taboubi accused the president of targeting the powerful union as part of a wider crackdown against critics.

Taboubi condemned the latest wave of arrests and the imprisonment since February of Anis Kaabi, a top UGTT official for highway workers, who had been detained after a strike by toll barrier employees.

"We will never accept such arrests," Taboubi told the protesters.

The UGTT has around one million members and shared a Nobel Peace Prize in 2015 with three other civil society groups for promoting national dialogue in the country of about 12 million inhabitants.

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