Former Tunisian prime minister and opposition leader released after interrogation

His detention and that of other Ennahda movement members come amid an escalation of repression against opposition forces in the country by President Kais Saied

September 06, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Former prime minister and former secretary general of the Ennahda Movement, Hamadi Jebali was detained and interrogated on Tuesday September 5.

Opposition leader Hamadi Jebali was detained and interrogated by the Tunisian security forces for several hours on Tuesday, September 5. His detention came hours after Mondher Ounissi, interim president of the Ennahda movement was arrested by the Tunisian security forces.

The former secretary general of the Ennahda movement Hamadi Jebali was elected prime minister of Tunisia in the first general elections held following the Tunisian revolution and ouster of authoritarian ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Jebali served as prime minister from December 2011 to March 2013.

According to one of Jebali’s lawyers, Mukhtar al-Jamai, he was questioned by the judicial unit responsible for financial corruption cases. The former prime minister was released after several hours and no charges were pressed, but the investigation will continue.

Meanwhile, Ounissi, was arrested on Tuesday by security forces a day after they started an investigation into an audio tape that allegedly featured his voice. The audio recording surfaced on social media platforms earlier this week, and Ounissi is allegedly heard making accusations against his party colleague of taking money from illegal sources.

Ounissi has claimed that the audio recording was fabricated.

Another top leader of Ennahda, Abdul Karim Haraouni, head of its Shura Council, was put in house arrest earlier this week. The state has also closed Ennahda’s headquarters and banned meetings in any of the party’s offices across the country.

Ennahda, the largest party in the defunct Tunisian parliament, and other opposition groups in the country have been condemning the wave of state repression which began when President Kais Saied usurped power in what they call a political coup in July 2021. At that time, Saied dismissed the prime minister and the entire cabinet and later dissolved the parliament. Kais Saied also suspended the 2014 constitution and promulgated a new constitution despite widespread opposition.

Tuesday’s detentions come five months after the arrest of the former head of the parliament and prominent Ennahda leader, 82-year-old Rached Ghannouchi. He was arrested and accused of indulging in alleged criminal activities including corruption and supporting terrorism. Ghannouchi was convicted and sentenced to one year in prison in May after he was found guilty of incitement of violence and terrorism.

Ghannouchi’s family has accused the Saied government of refusing him legal aid. In the beginning of the month, the African court of Human and People’s Rights ordered the Tunisian government to remove all barriers and allow all political prisoners access to their lawyers and medical care.