Tunisian police arrested an official in the powerful UGTT union on suspicion of insulting a minister, a union official said on Thursday, the second such recent detention in an escalating confrontation between the labour body and President Kais Saied.
The UGTT has lately been at the forefront of protests against Saied, who seized wide-ranging powers in 2021 and has been cracking down on political opponents.
A union official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters that its general secretary for culture, Abdel Nasser Ben Amara, was arrested on Wednesday after a protest at the Culture Ministry on Monday. He gave no more details.
Government officials were unavailable for comment.
The UGTT was initially slow to criticize Saied after what opponents call his “coup” in 2021. But as the president consolidated his grip while sidelining the union and other players, it began to openly challenge him.
Critics say Saied has dismantled the democracy and freedoms won in a 2011 revolution that triggered the Arab Spring.
He counters that he is saving Tunisia from chaos.
Another senior union official was detained last month for organizing a strike by highway tollbooth operators, prompting the UGTT’s newspaper to accuse Saied of declaring war on the organization and its 1 million members.
The UGTT has been holding rallies around Tunisia since last month after weeks of arrests in the biggest crackdown since Saied began ruling by decree in 2021.
Police have detained more than a dozen prominent opposition figures, accusing them of conspiring against state security.