Saturday, June 10, 2023

Tunisian Crackdown: Court frees detained radio station director

A Tunisian court has freed Noureddine Boutar, the director of Mosaique FM, the most popular radio which attracts more listeners.

• May 26, 2023
Noureddine Boutar and Mosaique FM
Noureddine Boutar and Mosaique FM

A Tunisian court has freed Noureddine Boutar, the director of Mosaique FM, the most popular radio which attracts more listeners.

Mr Boutar was released on Wednesday after more than three months of detention.

His lawyer, Dalila Msaddek, who confirmed his release, said Mr Boutar was released after paying $324,000 for bail.

Mr Msaddek added that Mr Boutar he’s not allowed to travel abroad.

“Boutar does not have this amount, especially since the judiciary has frozen all his assets. We are in the process of collecting the amount, so it will be difficult for him to be released today,” she told AFP.

Mr Boutar is among the 20 prominent figures held since early 2023 in what Amnesty International has labelled a “politically motivated witch hunt.”

The development came after police this week questioned two of the radio station’s top journalists, Haythem El Mekki and Elyes Gharbi, for speaking on air about security shortcomings.

The European Parliament in March lamented the “authoritarian drift” of Tunisia’s President Kais Saied, calling for Mr Boutar’s immediate release.

Mr Saied explained that those detained were “terrorists” involved in a conspiracy against state security.

He began a power grab with the suspension of parliament in July 2021, followed by a series of moves, including a new constitution that gave his office unlimited powers and neutered the legislature.

Critics have dubbed Mr Saied’s action as a “coup.”

Many described it as a return to autocratic rule in the only democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings in the region more than a decade ago.

In April, Me Saied detained the former parliament speaker, Rached Ghannouchi and closed Ghannouchi’s Ennahda party headquarters.

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