Tunisia puts Ennahda official under house arrest, colleague says

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A Tunisian flag flutters outside the building of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party headquarters in Tunis, Tunisia, July 29, 2021. REUTERS/Ammar Awad/File Photo

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TUNIS, Aug 6 (Reuters) - Tunisia's interior ministry has put under house arrest a senior official of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party which opposes the president's seizure of governing powers, one of his colleagues said on Friday.

Anouar Maarouf is the most prominent member of the party to be targeted since President Kais Saied dismissed the prime minister and suspended parliament on July 25 in moves Ennahda branded a coup.

Maarouf was from 2016-20 head of the Ministry of Communications and Technology, a department that Saied has suggested parties tried to manipulate for their own advantage.

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"Anouar Maarouf was informed by official authorities that he is under house arrest," an Ennahda official told Reuters, asking not to be named.

The party said it would appeal the decision.

"It was an arbitrary decision that affects the right of movement, travel and freedom of expression ... we will appeal the decision in the administrative court," it said in a statement.

The Interior Ministry was not immediately available for comment.

Although Saied's moves appear to have popular support, they have raised questions about Tunisia's democratic transition a decade after it threw off autocratic rule in a revolution that triggered the 2011 Arab Spring.

Several politicians and officials have been detained or are under investigation, including on old warrants that were implemented after the president lifted parliamentary immunity.

Saied has moved to gain direct control over the Interior Ministry and Communications and Technology Ministry, replacing the ministers in charge of both.

This week, he said he would not accept future communications and technology ministers being linked to political parties that might want control over citizens' data.

Ennahda is one of four political parties that the judiciary said last week it was investigating over foreign financing.

It says it has not broken any rules.

The judiciary also briefly investigated four party members, including some close to the leader, parliament speaker Rached Ghannouchi, over slight scuffles with Saied supporters on July 26. The cases were quickly dropped, however.

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Reporting By Tarek Amara; Editing by Toby Chopra, Andrew Cawthorne and Sonya Hepinstall

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