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Tunisia security forces close Ennahda's headquarters

April 19, 2023 at 2:35 pm

Security forces agents gather during a raid outside the home of the head of Tunisia’s Islamist movement Ennahdha Rached Ghannouchi in Tunis on April 17, 2023 [FETHI BELAID/AFP via Getty Images]

Tunisian security forces yesterday closed the headquarters of the Ennahda Movement a day after they arrested party leader, Rached Ghannouchi.

Riadh Chaibi, a leader of the party, said: “A security force entered the party’s main headquarters, asked those present to leave, and closed it.”

He continued: “Other security forces also closed all the party’s offices across the country and prevented meetings from taking place.”

The Ministry of the Interior has banned all meetings of the Ennahda Party and the National Salvation Front across the country starting yesterday, according to a document published by government media outlets.

The Ennahda movement had announced that Ghannouchi was arrested by a security unit that raided his home in the capital and took him to an “unknown location” before it announced that he was undergoing interrogation at a security barracks in the capital. His family said he was not allowed to meet with his lawyer or have him present during the interrogation.

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Local media outlets, citing an unidentified source within the Ministry of the Interior, reported that the decision to arrest Ghannouchi was made by Tunisia’s Counter-Terrorism Judicial Authority on charges of “incitement”. However there has been no official statement regarding the reason for Ghannouchi’s arrest.

Speaking yesterday to mark the founding of the internal security forces, President Kais Saied said: “We are applying the law, all its rules, and all the procedures it stipulates. We do not want to oppress anyone, nor do we want to leave the state as prey.”

He called on the judiciary “to play its role” in this phase “so that it can meet the expectations of Tunisians.”

Ghannouchi is one of the most prominent of Saied’s opponents. The Tunisian president has monopolised power in the country since 2021 when he suspended the previous parliament’s activities and dismissed the prime minister.

His opponents have accused him of a witch hunt against them, claims he refutes. However, since February, at least 20 individuals, mostly opposition members belonging to the Ennahda Party and its allies, as well as influential businessman Kamel Eltaief and a major private radio station manager, have been arrested.

President Saied described the detainees as “terrorists” and accused them of “conspiring against the internal and external security of the state.”

Non-governmental human rights organisations considered this arrest campaign a “deliberate attempt to crack down on the opposition, particularly criticism directed at the President,” and urged Saied to “stop this politically motivated campaign.”

The opposition accuses Saied of exploiting the judiciary to eliminate his political opponents, but Saied repeatedly insists that “the judiciary is independent” in his country.

READ: Somaya Ghannouchi: The arrest of my father reveals the immorality of the coup