Their defense team said that a Tunisian “anti-terrorist” investigative judge had imprisoned two prominent politicians and a prominent businessman.
Lawyers for Abdelhamid Jelassi and Khayyam al-Turki, both critics of President Kais Saied and businessman Kamal Latif, said the judge made the decision on Saturday.
They added that the three men’s defense team said that they boycotted the session because the conditions for a fair trial were not met.
The three men were arrested as part of a security operation that witnessed a series of raids and arrests of opposition politicians, activists, protest organizers, a media personality, judges and an influential businessman.
Among the 12 people who were arrested until Saturday were Shaimaa Issa and Jawhar bin Mubarak, two leaders in the opposition National Salvation Front coalition, as well as Essam Al-Shabi, leader of the opposition Republican Party.
All of those arrested were linked to criticizing Saied or efforts to mobilize protests against the president, who shut down parliament in 2021, sacked the government and decided to rule by decree before rewriting the constitution.
Last week, Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the opposition Ennahda party and speaker of the elected parliament that Saied formally dissolved last year, was summoned for questioning.
Opponents described the consolidation of power as a coup that demolished the democracy established after the 2011 revolution that made the country the cradle of the Arab Spring.
Saied denied that a coup had taken place, saying his moves were legal and necessary to save Tunisia from chaos.
His government did not comment on the timing of the arrests, but described its critics as traitors and criminals and said that some of the detainees had caused food shortages, which economists blamed on weak public finances.
Earlier this month, he said that the detainees committed a “conspiracy against the internal and external security of the state,” without mentioning any of them specifically.
On Friday, Human Rights Watch said the government was continuing its campaign with “total abandonment.”
The group noted that many have been charged under terrorism laws that allow detention without charge for up to 15 days and deny access to a lawyer for 48 hours.
“The message of these arrests is that if you dare to speak out, the president can arrest you and expose you publicly while his supporters try to make a case against you based on what you said or were interviewed,” said Salsabil Chellali, director of the office. The Tunisian Organization for Human Rights said in a statement.
Meanwhile, France, the former colonial power, expressed its “concern about the recent wave of arrests in Tunisia, and called on the Tunisian authorities to ensure respect for individual and public freedoms, in particular freedom of expression.”
For its part, the National Salvation Front promised, on Friday, to continue efforts to unite the opposition factions against Saeed.