Amnesty International claimed on Thursday that Tunisia has barred at least 50 officials, politicians, and businesses from travelling overseas since the president seized office last month.
“President Kais Saied has widely used arbitrary travel bans in Tunisia while avoiding the judiciary,” the report stated, adding that the overall number of people affected was likely “much more” than the 50 examples it documented.
The president’s office did not immediately reply to calls for comment.
Saied said late on Monday he was indefinitely extending emergency measures he announced on July 25 that included removing the prime minister, freezing parliament and lifting immunity of its members, moves his foes call a coup.
While Saied’s intervention appears to have widespread popular support and has not triggered a violent crackdown, it has thrust Tunisia into a constitutional crisis and cast doubt on its democratic gains since the 2011 revolution.
He has said his actions are legal and were needed to save Tunisia from collapse, has denied he would become a dictator and said restrictions on travel have only been used temporarily against those suspected of corruption or security threats.
However, authorities have detained or put under house arrest several officials and politicians, while border police have prevented others from travelling, raising fears for the rights won in 2011.
Saied has also sacked some security officials and figures in central and regional government, while police have detained people they say were involved in corruption in the phosphate industry.
“If Tunisian authorities want these measures to be seen as legitimate steps in the name of fighting corruption or ensuring state security, they need to devise a narrow and accountable means of doing so,” Amnesty said.
Imen Labidi, a judge, was stopped as she was about to board a flight to Turkey for a family holiday, held for two hours and then told she could not leave Tunisia based on an Interior Ministry notice, Amnesty said.
Anouar Benchahed, a parliamentary member from the Attayar party which backs Saied, was stopped as he was travelling to France on Aug. 15 and later said in a tweet that Saied’s moves constituted a coup.