(Tunis) Several hundred people gathered in the center of Tunis on Sunday at the call of the National Salvation Front (FSN), the main opposition coalition to President Kais Saied, to demand the release of around twenty arrested opponents since early February.

Carrying Tunisian flags or signs bearing the image of those imprisoned, around 300 opposition party activists chanted slogans calling for their release in front of the Municipal Theater of Tunis, according to AFP journalists.

Since the beginning of February, the authorities have imprisoned more than 20 opponents and personalities including ex-ministers, businessmen and the owner of the most listened to radio station in the country, Radio Mosaïque.

These arrests, denounced by local and international NGOs, targeted leading political figures of the FSN and its main component, the Islamist-inspired party Ennahdha.

At the protest on Sunday, Samir Ben Amor, a Republican Party official, called for a “national dialogue to develop a roadmap to save Tunisia and return to the democratic path.”

President Kais Saied, who assumed full power in July 2021, called those arrested “terrorists”, claiming they were involved in a “conspiracy against state security”.

Denouncing “a witch hunt”, Amnesty International called on the Tunisian government to “drop the criminal investigation targeting at least 17 people […] on the basis of unfounded accusations of conspiracy”.

Belgacem Hassen, of the FSN, demanded on Sunday that the “prosecution or justice take over (from the police, editor’s note) and present the charges against the detainees to the Tunisian people”.

The demonstrators also spoke of President Saied’s rejection a few days ago of “the dictates of the IMF” with which Tunisia has been in talks for months for financial assistance of nearly 2 billion dollars.

“The government has been negotiating for a year and a half with the International Monetary Fund and on a single word from the president, all negotiations were cut off, condemning Tunisia to a worsening of the crisis,” Ben Amor lamented.

Tunisia, which is struggling to recover from the COVID-19 crisis, is plagued by high inflation exceeding 10%. And without outside help, the State, very indebted, risks not being able to repay in the coming months several loans taken out abroad, according to the rating agencies.