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Tunisia: Ex-minister stages airport sit-in against travel ban

Former Minister of Religious Affairs Nourredine Khadmi held the protest with his family after he was prevented from travelling abroad for a seventh time
Tunisia's former minister of religious affairs, Nourredine Khadmi, lying down on a bench at Carthage international airport (Facebook)

Tunisia's former minister of religious affairs staged a sit-in with his family at the country's main international airport on Thursday, after he was reportedly barred from travelling abroad for a seventh time.

Nourredine Khadmi, who served as minister of religious affairs from 2011-2014, said authorities had repeatedly prevented him from travelling abroad since July.

'I will not leave the airport until after I gain my right to travel'

- Nourredine Khadmi

Khadmi told Al Jazeera Arabic that the restrictions were unwarranted and vowed to continue the sit-in at Carthage international airport until the ban was lifted.

Tunisia descended into a political crisis last summer when President Kais Saied suspended the country's parliament, sacked the prime minister and granted himself prosecutorial powers, in effect taking full control of the state and sidelining all opposition.

The move came two months after Middle East Eye revealed Saied's plans. 

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Since then, the 64-year-old president has made widespread use of arbitrary travel bans, with more than 50 Tunisians, including government officials, judges and businessmen prevented from travelling abroad.

In June, authorities imposed new, arbitrary restrictions that have prevented the travel of at least three opposition politicians, according to rights group Amnesty International.

Violation of constitutional rights

Khadmi told Arabi21 on Friday that "there is no judicial permit or ruling to prevent travel or legal prosecution against him." He added that the travel ban affected his daughter's university study abroad as his family insisted on travelling together.

"This is a violation of the authority and a violation of the legal and constitutional right to travel. I will not leave the airport until I gain my right to travel," he told the online newspaper.

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He also said that he was in touch with the ministry of interior, the judiciary and the presidency, which confirmed to him that there was no basis for the travel ban.

On Wednesday, Amal al-Saidi, the deputy leader of the Democratic Current party, was prevented from renewing her passport on the pretext of the S17, an arbitrary travel restriction for security reasons. According to Amnesty International, since 2013, almost 30,000 people have been prevented from travelling on the basis of S17.

The Democratic Current party demanded the cancellation of the travel restriction measure, placing "the political and criminal responsibility on the head of the coup authority, Kais Saied, and his interior minister, Tawfiq Sharaf al-Din." 

Earlier this week, Saied ratified his controversial new constitution that would give him unchecked powers.

The new constitution places the president in charge of the army, allows him to appoint a government without parliament's approval, and makes it close to impossible to remove him from office.

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