US slams Tunisia's 'escalating pattern' of opposition arrests

© Kevin Lamarque, Reuters

The United States on Thursday slammed what it called an "escalating pattern" of arrests in Tunisia of opposition figures, and expressed concern over reports that people who were in contact with US diplomats in Tunis are being targeted.

"We are alarmed by reports of criminal charges against individuals in Tunisia resulting from meetings or conversations with US embassy staff on the ground," State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

Price said the alleged criminal charges were part of "an escalating pattern of arrests against perceived critics of the government. "

The spokesman refused to identify any of the people believed to have been targeted, nor did he offer any details about their meetings with US diplomats, but he said any such meetings were legitimate.

"The primary role for any US embassy, for any diplomat anywhere in the world, is to meet with a wide array of individuals to inform our understanding of the different views and perspectives in that country," Price said.

"This is the work of diplomacy, it is the bread and butter of our diplomats... and it is a practice that should not be subject to persecution of a source."

On Tuesday, Tunisia's foreign ministry reminded diplomats to "not interfere" in the country's internal affairs, following reports that political figures who have been arrested had prior contact with Western diplomats.


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