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Tunisia: Military prosecutors probe journalist over harming 'public order'

Salah Attia was reportedly arrested after he alleged the army had been asked to help shut down a powerful labour union
Salah Attia speaking on a Tunisian TV show (Youtube/Screengrab)

An investigation has been opened by military prosecutors in Tunisia into a journalist on suspicion of "harming public order" after he said the army had been asked to forcibly shut the headquarters of the country's most powerful labour union.

A witness told Reuters that Salah Attia had been arrested after he told Al Jazeera on Saturday that President Kais Saied had asked the army to close the headquarters of the UGTT union and put political leaders under house arrest, but that the army had refused.

"Police in civilian clothes arrested Attia in a cafe in the suburb of Ibn Khaldoun in the capital," the witness, who was with Attia, told Reuters by phone.

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Saied has been facing growing criticism that he seeks to consolidate one-man rule since seizing power last summer, in a plot first revealed by Middle East Eye, a move his opponents called a coup.

He subsequently set aside the 2014 constitution to rule by decree and dismissed the elected parliament.

Last month, he called for a national dialogue to prepare a "new constitution for a new republic" and excluded main political parties. 

Other major players such as the UGTT refused to participate in what it said would be a dialogue with a predetermined outcome.

The leader of the UGTT, which has about a one million members, said on Thursday the union was being "targeted" by authorities after it refused to take part in the talks.

The president plans to hold a referendum on a new constitution on 25 July, the first anniversary of his power grab, ahead of elections in December.

The text of that constitution is yet to be presented, after a national consultation exercise that largely failed to spark participation by citizens.