TUNIS, March 17 (Reuters) – Tunisian President Kais Saied named Kamal Feki, the former governor of Tunis, as his new interior minister on Friday, just hours after Taoufik Charfeddine resigned from the post, amid a crackdown of prominent opposition figures that has prompted international ire.

Feki, one of Saied’s staunchest supporters, refused to grant a protest permit to the opposition Salvation Front coalition, saying that its leaders were involved in plotting against state security. But the Interior Ministry allowed them to protest.

He criticized the opposition several times, describing them as “immoral and weightless”.

Charfeddine said earlier he resigned due to family reasons.

Charfeddine at one stage was seen as the closest Tunisian official to the president but had in recent months appeared less frequently in public.

Speaking to reporters in comments broadcast on local media, Charfeddine referred to the death of his wife last year and his need to look after his children.

Saied has taken increasing control over security forces since July 2021 when he dismissed the government of the country’s former Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi. Saied shut down the parliament and moved to rule by decree before writing a new constitution that he passed last year.

Charfeddine had also served as interior minister under Mechichi, who sacked him in January 2021 as relations between the president and prime minister broke down. Saied reappointed him after dismissing Mechichi and seizing most powers.

Over recent weeks, Tunisian authorities have detained prominent opposition figures who accuse Saied of a coup, charging them with conspiring against state security.

Police have also carried out a crackdown on African migrants lacking residence permits, with rights groups accusing them of detaining hundreds and turning a blind eye to racist attacks.

Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Hugh Lawson, Mark Potter and Diane Craft

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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