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Tunisia: Opposition Leader Jailed

Ennahda party leader Rached Ghannouchi has an arrest warrant, his party said Thursday, April 20, denouncing "unjustified detention" on its Facebook page. The 81-year-old leader of the Islamo-conservative party and former parliament has been President Kais Saied's main opponent since the latter's coup, who seized full power in July 2021.

Opponents believe that the arrest of Ennahda leader Rashid Ghannouchi and other party leaders on charges of conspiracy against state security aims to liquidate the most prominent force in the opposition, and while some hold Ennahda itself responsible for the crisis in the country, others believe that the attempt to eradicate it has dire consequences.

Analysts consider Al-Nahda Movement to be the most important political party in the country with a long history as it represents for it the largest component in the most important opposition political alliance, which is the Salvation Front, stressing that the arrest of its leaders and the confiscation of its headquarters and the headquarters of the Salvation Front is an illegal act aimed at paralyzing the political activity of these forces.

The Salvation Front was established 9 months after the president announced his exceptional measures on July 25, 2021, to dissolve parliament, dismiss the previous government, and dissolve the Supreme Judicial Council. The front is an alliance of 6 parties - the most prominent of which is the Ennahda Movement - and its goal is to restore democracy, according to analysts.

The National Salvation Front (FSN), an opposition coalition of which Ennahda is a member, confirmed that the judge invoked, in particular, the reason for "conspiracy against state security" to imprison Rached Ghannouchi.

The FSN declared "a collapse of freedoms in the country", stressing that Rached Ghannouchi had only issued "an opinion in a seminar organized by the FSN". For FSN, power "ultimately led to the criminalization of freedom of expression and peaceful political activism, which is evidence that he failed to prepare a serious lawsuit".

The new Minister of the Interior, Kamal al-Fiqi, had given his instructions, based on the emergency law, to ban meetings at the entire headquarters of the Ennahda Movement and the headquarters of the opposition Salvation Front. This ban represents a precedent that the country did not experience after the revolution, while opponents fear that the step is a prelude to the dissolution of those forces.

In a statement, Ennahda denied Rached Ghannouchi's intention to call for civil war and "strongly condemns the unjust decision aimed at covering up the utter failure of power to improve the economic situation of its citizens."

Police cars are currently parked in front of the main headquarters of the opposition Salvation Front and the headquarters of the Ennahda movement surrounded by iron barriers, while no official clarification has been issued so far by the authority regarding the nature of the open battle, especially with the Ennahda movement, or the time period of implementing the ban.

The Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs affirmed in a press release, published Wednesday evening in response to French and European concerns,  saying that " The Republic applies to all litigants without exception, has all legal guarantees, and "undisturbed by a wave of inappropriate comments, the judiciary will be calmly administered".

Tunisia is going through a serious politico-economic crisis which is pushing many Tunisians to try to reach Europe illegally by sea at the risk of their lives.

Commenting on the crisis, the leader of the Ennahda movement, Al-Mundhir Al-Wanisi, has said that the authority had failed to provide solutions to the economic and social crisis, and that it was continuing the policy of escaping by targeting political activists in order to distract public opinion from the real problems the country was suffering from.

He believes that the arbitrary arrest of Ghannouchi after his house was raided, despite his legal symbolism - as a nationally and internationally known figure that fought against dictatorship and contributed to democratic construction and deliberation on governance - is not appropriate for a respectable country that claims to be a democracy, as he put it.

Al-Wanisi does not find a reason to arrest Ghannouchi, who responded voluntarily to the investigation 10 times by security or judicial authorities on various charges other than abuse, stressing that abuse has become a systematic policy by the authority that fabricates charges haphazardly with flimsy pretexts and empty files of support, according to him.

Edited by : Ritaja Kar 


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