Tunisian police on Saturday arrested powerful businessman Kamel Eltaief, a former confidante of ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and top political activists, lawyers said.
Prosecutor Nizar Ayed said al-Taif, 68, was arrested at his home in the capital, Tunis, without giving further details.
Police also arrested Abdel Hamid Jelassi, a former senior leader of the Islam-inspired Ennahda movement – a bitter rival of President Kais Saied – and political activist Khayam Turki.
Tunisia has seen a sharp rise in arrests and prosecutions of politicians, journalists and others since Saied assumed sweeping powers in a dramatic move against parliament in July 2021.
Since then, Saied’s opponents have accused him of authoritarianism in the cradle of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.
For many Tunisians – especially Ennahda supporters – Latif was seen as a symbol of the North African country’s corrupt past.
The ruler was implicated in the 1987 coup that ousted former President Habib Bourguiba on medical grounds and was long considered a close confidant of Bourguiba’s successor, Ben Ali.
Al-Taif then fell out of favor with Ben Ali in 1992 in an argument with the former dictator’s wife, Leila Trabelsi.
After Ben Ali was overthrown in 2011, the businessman approached the opposition.
In 2012 he was investigated for “conspiracy against state security”, but no charges were brought against him and the case was dropped in 2014.
In the case of former Ennahda leader Abdel Hamid Jelassi, seven police officers searched his home on Saturday night and confiscated his mobile phone before arresting him, the party said, without giving further details.
According to the Tunisian media, Jelassi was arrested “on suspicion of conspiracy against state security”.
Political activist Turki, 58, was once considered a potential candidate for prime minister after the resignation of Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh in 2020 and belongs to the Social Democratic Bloc party.