Tunisia police arrest political cartoonist on suspicion of insulting PM

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On Friday, a prominent Tunisian political cartoonist announced his release from prison on Facebook. Tawfiq Omrane was arrested by Tunisian authorities on Thursday, suspected of insulting Prime minister Ahmed Al-Hasani with his cartoons. Omrane claimed that two policemen showed up at his home on Thursday. He was taken to the police headquarters in Muqreen where he was interrogated about his political and religious affiliations. He was interrogated on three counts of insulting Al-Hasani and on one count of insulting public utility companies.

While the Public Prosecutor did allow Omrane’s release, the case remains ongoing. The artist has been summoned to appear at the Court of First Instance of Tunisia on Monday.

Omrane’s arrest is the latest in a series of erosions of the civic freedoms hard-fought for and won in the 2011 Revolution. As soon as President Kais Saied took office in 2019, he started to crack down on political opponents and punish dissent. In 2021 he declared an emergency, taking over all executive powers and dismissing the then-Prime minister Hichem Mechichi. Saied pledged to take action against illegal content on social media last month, including “rumors” or “slander”. The development has raised concerns among human right organizations. In June, Amnesty International called upon the UN Human Rights Council to address the “rapidly growing rights crisis” in the country.

According to a statement from Al-Hasani, he was not aware of the arrest and interrogation of Omrane.