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Tunisia court frees radio station boss held in crackdown

By AFP - May 24,2023 - Last updated at May 24,2023

TUNIS — A Tunisian court on Wednesday decided to free after more than three months’ detention the head of the country’s most listened to radio station, whose release had been sought by the European Union.

Noureddine Boutar, director of Mosaique FM, was let out on payment of 1 million dinars ($324,000) bail, his lawyer Dalila Msaddek said, adding he is not allowed to go 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.

Boutar is among more than 20 prominent figures held since early this year in what Amnesty International has labelled a “politically motivated witch hunt”.

The court decision comes 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.

In March the European Parliament, in a non-binding resolution, decried the “authoritarian drift” of Tunisia’s President Kais Saied and called for Boutar’s immediate release.

Saied says those detained were “terrorists” involved in a “conspiracy against state security”.

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

Opponents have dubbed his actions a “coup” and a return to autocratic rule in the only democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings in the region more than a decade ago.

Last month Saied detained former parliament speaker Rached Ghannouchi and closed Ghannouchi’s Ennahdha party headquarters.

 

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