Creating new perspectives since 2009

Tunisia: Ghannouchi launches hunger strike in support of political prisoners

September 29, 2023 at 12:31 pm

Tunisia’s Speaker of the Parliament Rached Ghannouchi flashes the victory sign as he arrives for questioning at the judicial police headquarters in the capital Tunis, on April 1, 2022 [FETHI BELAID/AFP via Getty Images]

Speaker of the dissolved Tunisian Parliament and leader of the Ennahda Party, Rached Ghannouchi, has launched a hunger strike in solidarity with all political prisoners who are being imprisoned unjustly.

Ghannouchi’s protest also comes in solidarity with the hunger strike led by Jaouhar Ben Mbarek, who began a hunger strike on 25 September, denouncing the arbitrary arrest of political opposition figures and use of the judiciary and security agencies to punish anyone who opposes  the monopolisation of power and the policies of terrorising and starving the Tunisian people.

Eight-two-year-old Ghannouchi was sentenced to a year in jail in May on charges of incitement and plotting against state security, charges he denies. More than 20 other opposition figures have been detained this year.

Ghannouchi, a political prisoner and exile before the 2011 revolution that brought democracy, was parliament speaker from the 2019 election and his party was the biggest in the legislature until Saied sent tanks to shut it down in 2021.

Saied has held nearly total power since 25 July 2021 when he sacked the prime minister, suspended parliament and assumed executive authority citing a national emergency.

He appointed a prime minister on 29 September and a government has since been formed. In December, Saied announced that a referendum will be held on 25 July to consider ‘constitutional reforms’ and elections would follow in December 2022.

The majority of the country’s political parties slammed the move as a “coup against the constitution” and the achievements of the 2011 revolution. Critics say Saied’s decisions have strengthened the powers of the presidency at the expense of parliament and the government, and that he aims to transform the country’s government into a presidential system.

On more than one occasion, Saied, who began a five-year presidential term in 2019, said that his exceptional decisions are not a coup, but rather measures within the framework of the constitution to protect the state from “imminent danger”.

Read: Tunisia fierce attack on the media