Tunisian police arrest Ennahda leader Ghannouchi, the party says

TUNIS (Reuters) – Tunisian police arrested Ennahda Party leader Rached Ghannouchi on Monday, his party said, a move that marks an escalation of an arrest campaign already targeted at scores of high-profile opponents of President Kais Saied .

Police raided Ghannouchi’s home Monday night and searched it before taking him to a location the Islamist Ennahda described as an “unknown destination”.

Police have arrested leading Tunisian political figures this year who are accusing Saied of a coup d’état for attempting to shut down the elected parliament in 2021 and rule by decree before rewriting the constitution.

The earlier arrests, which have led to charges of conspiracy against state security, have prompted expressions of concern from the US and human rights groups.

A senior police official said Ghannouchi was interrogated on orders from prosecutors for “inflammatory remarks” and his home was searched. A decision on the next steps lies with the public prosecutor’s office, said the official.

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Ghannouchi had already faced repeated court hearings over the past year over allegations related to Ennahda’s finances and allegations that she had helped Islamists travel to Syria for jihad, allegations he and the party both deny.

The 81-year-old was a political prisoner in the 1980s and went into exile in the 1990s before returning to Tunisia during the 2011 revolution that brought democracy.

Under his leadership, Ennahda moved toward the political center, joining successive governing coalitions with secular parties and becoming speaker of parliament after the 2019 election.

Since Saied’s assumption of sweeping powers, which the president said were necessary to save Tunisia from years of crisis, Ghannouchi has been the main political party leader to oppose him.

(Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Alison Williams)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

Brian Ashcraft

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