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Tunisian swimming chiefs arrested over flag dispute

The chiefs were arrested after the country’s flag was covered at a meet in Tunis [GETTY]

The heads of Tunisia’s swimming federation and National Anti-Doping Organisation (ANAD) have been arrested after the country’s flag was covered at a meet in Tunis, a prosecutor’s office spokesman told AFP on Monday.

In response to sanctions by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which had banned the Tunisian flag from competitions, the flag was covered on Friday during a championship organised by the national swimming federation at the Rades Olympic pool.

That provoked an outraged reaction from Tunisian President Kais Saied.

After an investigation, nine people have been prosecuted so far, including the two presidents who have been in police custody since Saturday, and seven other officials were summoned Monday to the Ben Arous court, spokesperson Mohamed Sadok Jouini said.

They face charges including “attack on the flag of Tunisia”, “formation of an organised group to commit attacks and cause disorder”, and “plot against the internal security” of the state, according to Jouini.

Hours after the flag incident on Friday, the president’s office released a video showing Saied visiting the pool near Tunis, raising the flag, and singing the national anthem.

In a meeting with Prime Minister Ahmed Hachani and other cabinet members, Saied said the country cannot “tolerate this, Tunisia comes before the Olympic Committee and before any other committees.”

An apparently agitated Saied called the flag covering “an act of aggression”.

In a statement issued overnight Friday-Saturday, the Tunisian youth and sports ministry announced the dissolution of the swimming federation board and the dismissal of the ANAD chief and a sports official based in Ben Arous near Tunis.

The decision followed “instructions” by President Saied “to take immediate measures… against those responsible for the incident of hiding the national flag”, the statement said.

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