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Ghannouchi: I was imprisoned during Bourguiba and Ben Ali reigns; I am not intimidated by Saied

Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the Ennahda in Tunis, Tunisia on April 29, 2022 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]
Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the Ennahda in Tunis, Tunisia on April 29, 2022 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]

The Tunisian judiciary has commenced investigating the President of the Ennahda Movement, Rached Ghannouchi, in the so-called "Namaa Tunisia Association" case.

Ghannouchi arrived at the Judicial Pole of Counter-Terrorism in the capital, on Tuesday morning, accompanied by his deputy, Noureddine Bhiri, amid significant security reinforcements.

Supporters of the Movement received Ghannouchi by chanting the Tunisian national anthem, along with slogans denouncing the "coup against legitimacy" and "political trials", and another accusing President Kais Saied of using the judiciary to target his opponents, notably Ghannouchi who, on several occasions, expressed his rejection of the "coup" against the constitution and democracy in Tunisia.

Ghannouchi was also accompanied by prominent opposition figures, such as the Head of the Salvation Front, Ahmed Najib Chebbi, and the Front's member, Ridha Belhaj, as well as a large number of Tunisian lawyers.

Bhiri expressed Ennahda's fears that the judiciary would resort to detaining Ghannouchi, who confirmed that "no charges have been brought against him and that he will resort to international courts", noting that the Movement and the rest of the opposition parties are studying taking several options (he did not reveal) in the event of resorting to this step.

Ghannouchi's message to Tunisians

Ghannouchi delivered a speech to Tunisian public opinion, posted on the Movement's official Facebook page.  He said: "I come here today to appear before the Tunisian judiciary out of respecting it and in support of the existence of an independent judicial authority – not a functional one, as wanted by those who degrade it and its position. I also came here to make a victory for the struggle of honourable judges who work for the independence of the judiciary, respect for its structures, rejection of all efforts to pressure and taking advantage of it and punishing judges by dismissal or defamation. Regretfully, all this is happening today by Mr Kais, his government and his uncontrolled supporters. Since the 25 July coup, they have been conspiring against me, working to defame me and my family and fabricating false accusations against me. They are mere malicious and false accusations that have no grounds. Today, these accusations come in the context of passing a draft constitution that consolidates the coup, dictatorship and absolute individual rule, besides striking the republic's values ​​and gains, and further engaging the country into a comprehensive and deep crisis and isolation in the world."

READ: Tunisian organisations consider July 25 as referendum date on President Said, not on constitution

"Not for pride; I am among the persons who most promoted moderation, and to be intellectually and politically moderate, and who theorised for Islamic democracy and democratic Islam against the calls of ignorance, extremism, violence, terrorism, exclusion or violation of freedoms. I did that, and I have been doing that for more than fifty years and my books, articles and positions are witnesses of that, since it is my religious and patriotic duty. The Tunisian Ennahda Movement was and is still on the path of democracy, moderation, the search for consensus and cooperation, respect for State institutions and laws and cooperation with everyone who respects democracy to make the value of freedom and democracy at the top of its values, interests, sacrifices and concessions when necessary," Ghannouchi added.

He also criticised "the varied methods used to target the Ennahda Movement and its symbols in persistent and unrelenting attempts to link the Movement to terrorism and conspiracy against the country, to transform the matter from a political situation that can be solved through democracy into a security and judicial case. What happens today is one of these methods. Whenever they are unable to defeat the Movement through elections, they resort to taking advantage of the judiciary, security services and some media to strike it. Usually, this happens when the country is going through a political phase, such as the referendum that we rejected, so we are punished for that reason. Likewise, the elections that they are preparing for, while we are absent, they will not succeed, Allah willing. In doing so, they destroy democracy and the institutions of the republican system, deepen the country's crisis and isolation, and push it to antagonism, poverty and chaos, push it to the unknown."

He continued: "I was tried on political charges and imprisoned during the reigns of Bourguiba and Ben Ali. I was sentenced to death due to leading a political party, which they refused to recognise its right to exist and insisted on considering it along with other parties as a security issue, not a political issue as it is in truth. Ennahda Movement, its men and women were patient. It endured injustice that you know or do not until the revolution liberated the country from injustice and oppression. Today, they want to try me on charges of a general right, I who spent my life fighting for a state of fair law and institutions that represent the people and do oppress them. I have transparently declared my property more than once, but they do not stop deliberate defaming and slandering, and this is one of the worst types of injustice."

READ: Tunisia: opposition leader Ghannouchi released as prosecutor calls for arrest

He also considered that "there is no worthy future of Tunisia and Tunisians except in respecting freedom, democracy and its legitimate institutions, in addition to focusing on economic and development priorities, implementing the necessary reforms, respecting the neutrality of the administration, the army, security services and the independence of the judiciary, appreciating the values of work and sacrifice, respecting the values ​​of co-existence and rejecting hatred and violence, as implemented by all nations that preceded us in the path of liberation and progress. I, and the Ennahda Movement, are aware of this, and committed to continuing the struggle, in cooperation with all believers, to achieve a civil and democratic State that serves its people, and we are ready to exert sacrifices or concessions to achieve that."

Ghannouchi had previously confirmed that he had information about the intention of the judiciary, which is controlled by President Kais Saied, to detain due to the "Namaa Tunisia Association" case, which he, on several occasions, denied any connection with it.

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