IHRC is calling on the Tunisian government to free the detained leader of the Islamist opposition party Rachid Ghannouchi who was arrested on Monday as part of a continuing crackdown on opposition groups.
About 100 plain clothes policemen burst into Ghannouchi’s home on the 27th night of Ramadan and whisked him away to a military barracks. His lawyers have since been denied access to see him.
After an overnight hearing yesterday the investigating judge issued a verdict to charge Mr Ghannouchi with conspiracy against state security, punishable with the death penalty, and ordered him to be imprisoned pending trial.
The government accuses Ghannouchi of making “inciting statements”, misrepresenting what he said in an opposition meeting last week in which the 81-year-old veteran politician condemned the state of Tunisia’s politics following a presidential coup in 2021:
“There is a paralysis, intellectual and ideological, which, in reality, lays the ground for civil war. Because imagining Tunisia without this or that side, Tunisia without Ennahda, without political Islam, without the left or any other component is a project for civil war. It is a crime. That is why those who welcomed this coup with celebrations cannot be democrats.” he said.
Ghannounchi appears to be the latest victim of the authoritarian Tunisian president, Kais Saied, who sacked the democratically elected government in 2021, dissolved the parliament and started ruling by decree.
Ghannouchi is head of Tunisia’s largest opposition party, En Nahda, which has dominated politics in the country since the 2011 Jasmine Revolution. Banished to exile in the 1990s, he returned during the 2011 revolution, which had brought democracy to Tunisia.
Police raided the party’s headquarters the day after Ghannouchi’s arrest and also closed the offices of another opposition party, the Salvation Front.
Governments should not be using legislation, let alone anti-terror laws, as a tool to exclude people from the political process and to attack opposition figures. IHRC calls on the Tunisian government to release Mr Ghannounchi immediately and restore the country’s politics to their constitutional basis.
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