Tunisia's interim government on Saturday refused to legalize five political parties, including three Islamic ones _ the first such rejections since the country's longtime autocrat was driven from power.
The Interior Ministry ruled the applying parties didn't adhere to a law requiring parties to be organized democratically and banning those created on the basis of religion, ethnicity, gender or region, the official news agency TAP reported.
The caretaker government has faced a delicate task in fostering democracy after President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia in January amid massive street protests _ especially because laws from his era remain on the books until a new constitution can be devised.
The religious parties denied legalization were the Assalam, or Peace, party; a Sunni Muslim party; and Hizb Ettahrir, or the Liberation Party _ a movement with historic ties to the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood.
At a news conference Saturday, Ridha Belhaj, a spokesman for Hizb Ettahrir, said his party wants a regime based on sharia law and doesn't rule out "rebellion and civil disobedience" to create an Islamic state.
The government did approve the applications of three other political parties, bringing the total now legalized to 34 _ up from only nine under Ben Ali's regime. It dissolved his former ruling party, the RCD, on Wednesday.
Separately Saturday, TAP reported that Tunisian authorities have arrested three close allies of Ben Ali.
Abdallah Kallel, Abdelaziz Ben Dhia and Abdelwaheb Abdallah were detained on suspicion of illegally obtaining money and other alleged crimes as part of a crackdown against the Democratic Constitutional Rally, or RCD.
The three men had previously been under house arrest, and were remanded into remanded in custody after appearing before an investigating judge, TAP said.
The government has been struggling to build new political institutions to replace bodies dominated by Ben Ali and the RCD _ including the two houses of parliament.
Elections are planned July 24 for a body that will devise a new constitution, a step toward new legislative and presidential elections.