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Tunisia's ex-agriculture minister detained on suspicion of graft

Tunisian riot police officers on 28 March 2020. [Yassine Gaidi - Anadolu Agency]
Tunisian police officers on 28 March 2020 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]

A former Tunisian agriculture minister and seven other former officials have been detained on suspicion of corruption, judicial authorities said, Reuters reports, in the latest move against graft that has hampered economic reform efforts.

Since President Kais Saied dismissed parliament and seized near total control of the country in July, in a move critics called a coup, he has vowed to root out systemic corruption.

Last week, lawmaker Mehdi Ben Gharbia was detained over suspected tax fraud and money laundering – the fourth parliamentarian to be taken into custody since Saied's move.

A statement from the Tunis court said the arrest of the eight former officials was related to suspected graft in the purchase of equipment for the agriculture ministry. The name of the former agriculture minister was not immediately released.

Saied's intervention in July followed violent protests which broke out in several Tunisian cities criticising the government's handling of the economy and the coronavirus. Demonstrators had called for parliament to be dissolved.

But critics have labelled it a coup that has undermined democratic gains made since the country's 2011 revolution, which ended autocratic rule and triggered the Arab Spring.

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