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A police officer stands guard outside the parliament building in Tunis on July 29.

AMMAR AWAD/Reuters

Tunisia is investigating supporters of a political party that accused the president of a coup after they were involved in scuffles outside parliament while protesting against him, TAP news agency reported on Friday.

The announcement of the investigation into members of the moderate Islamist Ennahda came hours after security forces arrested a parliament member from a different party who had criticized the president and army, his wife said.

Both moves may add to concerns over rights and freedoms in Tunisia after President Kais Saied on Sunday dismissed the prime minister, froze parliament for a month and said he was taking over executive authority.

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The main parties in Tunisia’s parliament accuse Saied of a coup, and the United States has urged respect for the constitution, calling on him to return the country “to the democratic path”.

Ennahda, the biggest party in parliament, held a sit-in outside the building early on Monday after it was surrounded by the army. Hundreds of supporters of Ennahda and Saied confronted each other, with some throwing stones or bottles.

Among those under investigation for “attempting to commit acts of violence” are a member of an important party council, a former bodyguard of the party leader Rached Ghannouchi, who is Parliament Speaker, and an honorary member of his staff.

No investigations have yet been announced into supporters of Saied who were also present.

Earlier on Friday, security services raided the home of Yassin Ayari, a member of parliament who has faced repeated prosecutions by the military for defaming it on social media. Ayari has also been a critic of Saied and this week accused him of a coup.

When Saied announced his emergency measures on Sunday, he also said he would take over public prosecutions and said he was lifting the immunity of parliament members, leaving them vulnerable to any existing charges against them.

Neither the security forces nor representatives of the judiciary were immediately available for comment on Ayari’s arrest.

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“They took him forcefully while his mother was shouting,” his wife Cyrine Fitouri said by phone, adding that the security agents told his family not to film Ayari’s arrest.

Saied on Thursday said he would uphold freedoms and rights of Tunisians, and leading civil society groups said he must uphold the constitution.

His actions appear to have widespread popular support in Tunisia, where years of misgovernance, corruption, political paralysis and economic stagnation have been aggravated this year by a deadly surge in COVID-19 cases.

The judiciary, which has declared its political independence, said this week it had previously opened investigations into three political parties that have opposed Saied, and has now started investigations into several lawmakers.

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