Tunisian President fires defense minister

The move comes a day after the Tunisian President ousted the prime minister and suspended parliament in what was described as a "coup".

Tags: Tunisia
Ben Ariel ,

Tunisian President Kais Saied
Tunisian President Kais Saied

Tunisian President Kais Saied on Monday sacked the country’s defense minister Monday, a day after ousting the prime minister and suspending parliament, AFP reports.

The presidency announced the dismissals of Defense Minister Ibrahim Bartaji and Hasna Ben Slimane, the acting justice minister, according to the report.

On Sunday, Saied dismissed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and ordered parliament closed for 30 days, a move the biggest political party Ennahdha decried as a "coup".

Mechichi said he would hand power to the man chosen by the president, in his first comments since the shock move.

The president, who under the constitution controls the armed forces, warned his opponents against taking up arms, threatening that if anyone "fires a single bullet, our forces will respond with a rain of bullets", according to AFP.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by telephone with Saeid and asked him to respect democracy and "maintain open dialogue with all political actors and the Tunisian people," the State Department said.

“Good phone call with President Kais Saied today to discuss the situation in Tunisia. I expressed my support for Tunisia’s democracy,” Blinken tweeted after the call.

Saied has been enmeshed in political disputes with Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi for over a year, as the country grapples with an economic crisis, a looming fiscal crunch and a flailing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.