Top Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi arrested, party office sealed

A number of opposition leaders have been arrested and faced persecution since President Kais Saied took over virtually all power in the country in July 2021

April 18, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Ennahda Rached Ghannouchi Tunisia
(Photo: TAP)

Tunisian officials closed down the headquarters of the country’s most prominent opposition party, Ennahda, on Tuesday, April 18, a day after they arrested party chief Rached Ghannouchi, Al-Jazeera reported.  

According to senior Ennahda leaders quoted by Al-Jazeera, Tunisian officials have shut down other party offices in different parts of the country as well and prohibited any meetings inside their premises. 

On Monday, Tunisian officials arrested Ennahda party leader Rached Ghannouchi after conducting a lengthy raid at his house and took him to an ‘unknown location’, Tunisia’s official news agency TAP reported. Later, his lawyer Nejib Chebbi told AP that Ghannouchi had been taken to El Aouina prison in the capital Tunis. 

According to the TAP report, Ghannouchi has been put under arrest as per an arrest warrant issued by the prosecutor’s office at the Judicial Counter Terrorism division. It also reported that Ghannouchi will remain “at the disposal of the investigation on incitement charges.”  

Ghannouchi was the speaker of the parliament before it was dissolved in 2021 by President Kais Saied. He has been a vocal opponent of Saied’s policies and has been arrested several times in the past as well. The government has charged him with funding terrorism and corruption. 

The government accuses Ennahda leaders of enabling Tunisian youth to leave the country and join the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group.  

Both Ghannouchi and his party have denied the allegations and called the government’s move persecution.   

Ennahda’s Vice-President Ali Laarayedh was also detained on similar charges in December last year.  

Tunisian authorities had raided the headquarters of the party following Ghannouchi’s arrest. 

Ennahda issued a statement following the raids and arrest of Ghannouchi, calling them a “very dangerous development.” It demanded Ghannouchi’s immediate release and also called for an end to the persecution of the political opposition unleashed by the Saied administration. 

Scores of opponents of Saied’s policies have been arrested by the Tunisian security forces in recent months. Among them is president of the Republican Party, Issam Chebbi, and other leaders of the National Salvation Front— a coalition of parties opposing Saied’s rule, along with journalists like Noureddine Boutar and leaders of country’s biggest trade union—the UGTT—including its leader Anis Kaabi.  

Saied took full control over the country’s institutions after dismissing the elected government in July 2021 and dissolving the parliament some time later. Tunisia has since enacted a new constitution and conducted national elections amid large-scale protests and boycott calls given by the opposition, which has asked for Saied’s resignation.