Tunisian lawmaker arrested for alleged tax evasion and money laundering – Middle East Monitor

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A Tunisian court on Sunday ordered the arrest of an MP for alleged tax evasion and money laundering – the fourth MP to be arrested since President Kais Saied took near-total control of the country in July, Reuters reports.

Mehdi Ben Gharbia, businessman and former minister, is a member of the Tahya Tounes party led by former prime minister Youssef Chahed, sacked by Saied.

Ben Gharbia’s lawyer could not be reached immediately for comment.

Saied’s intervention and his pledge to fight corruption, after years of economic stagnation and political paralysis, have been welcomed by many Tunisians.

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But critics have called it a coup that undermined democratic gains made since the country’s 2011 revolution, which ended autocratic rule and sparked the Arab Spring.

Saied, who also suspended parliament and lifted lawmakers’ immunity from prosecution, last week unveiled a new government led by Najla Bouden. According to the rules he announced last month, he will ultimately respond to him rather than Bouden.

Saied has vowed to stand up for rights and freedoms but has given no indication of when he will relinquish his new powers.

None of the other three lawmakers currently in prison have been formally charged with an offense. Two were accused of insulting the police. Their lawyer called their detentions political.

The third lawmaker is accused of corruption in connection with a phosphate contract.


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