Dozens of demonstrators on Thursday called for the release of opponents of Tunisian President Kais Saied's policies, denouncing a judiciary "under orders", journalists observed.
Around twenty opponents and leading figures from the business and media worlds have been arrested since February as part of an investigation into "plotting against state security". Mr. Saied, who seized full power in the country in the summer of 2021, has described them as "terrorists".
Around a hundred demonstrators and relatives of the detainees gathered outside the Court of Appeal in Tunis.
Imed Khemiri, spokesman for the Islamo-conservative Ennahdha party, President Saied's bête noire, said that the arrests were "politically motivated".
These imprisonments "reflect a suffocating political crisis in Tunisia" but they "cannot silence free voices", added Mr. Khemiri, also a member of the National Salvation Front (FSN), the main opposition coalition.
"My father is paying the bill for his love of Tunisia", lamented Abdelaziz, the son of Issam Chebbi, 65, an FSN leader who was once a fierce opponent of the dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, overthrown by the 2011 Revolution, his voice choked with emotion.
According to Mr. Chebbi, "the judiciary is at the orders of the executive and is not independent".
In addition to the political crisis triggered by Mr. Saied's coup de force, Tunisia, which is heavily in debt, is shaken by a serious financial crisis and is seeking foreign aid.
Speaking to the press on Wednesday, European parliamentarians voiced their opposition to any "unconditional agreement" between the European Union and Tunisia because of the "excesses" committed by President Saied.
They called on the Tunisian authorities to "release arbitrarily imprisoned opponents, defend the rights of Tunisian citizens and support their struggle for democracy".
The campaign of arrests launched since February has targeted prominent political leaders. The NGO Amnesty International denounced a "politically motivated witch-hunt". "Detainees were questioned about meetings and telephone exchanges with foreign diplomats, others about media interviews", according to the NGO.