Tunisian authorities have arrested Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the opposition party Ennahda and one of President Kais Saied’s most vocal critics. Ghannouchi, 81, a former parliamentary speaker, is among at least 20 individuals detained in a recent crackdown on the president’s opponents.
Counterterrorism prosecutors arrested Ghannouchi on Monday for allegedly making “inflammatory comments.” Following an eight-hour investigation, a judge ordered his imprisonment, according to Monia Bouali, his lawyer. Three other prominent Ennahda officials were also taken into custody.
Who is Rached Ghannouchi?
Ghannouchi, who lived in exile in the 1990s, returned to Tunisia during the 2011 uprising that brought democracy to the nation. As the speaker of the parliament dissolved by Saied in July 2021, Ghannouchi has criticized the president’s moves, including introducing a new constitution that increased the president’s powers, as a coup.
Ennahda has described Ghannouchi’s arrest as a “dangerous development” with the US officials describing it as a “troubling escalation”. Tunisian authorities have banned meetings at all Ennahda offices and police raided the party’s headquarters to conduct a search. Ghannouchi has faced repeated judicial questioning over the past year regarding Ennahda’s finances and allegations that the party aided Islamist extremists traveling to Syria to fight, charges that both Ghannouchi and the party deny.
President Saied’s opponents accuse him of reinstating autocratic rule in Tunisia, the only democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings more than a decade ago.
Image Credit: AP Photo/Hassene Dridi, File