Tunisia briefly detains chronically ill former Ennahda leader

Tunisia briefly detains chronically ill former Ennahda leader
Sadok Chourou, who led the Ennahda party between 1988 and 1991, was arrested on Thursday on 'terrorism' related charges, before being released later for health reasons.
2 min read
19 May, 2023
Chourou's arrest comes amid a wave of arrests of politicians affiliated with the Ennahda party [Getty]

Tunisian authorities on Thursday released former Ennahda leader Sadok Chourou citing health reasons, hours after he was detained amid a massive crackdown on opposition politicians.

Chourou, 71, was arrested earlier on Thursday on "terrorism-related charges" in the capital Tunis, and was taken to an unknown location, according to Ennahda political advisor Riadh Chaibi and barred from communicating with his lawyers or family members.

His lawyer, Mounia Bouali, told Arabi21 that the veteran politician has chronic health conditions, having suffered a stroke recently, and takes medication regularly.

Privately-owned Tunisian radio station Mosaique FM said that the Tunisian Public Prosecution was informed of Chourou’s health conditions, prompting them to release the septuagenarian.

Chourou, a professor of chemistry, was a prominent leader of the Islamist-inspired Ennahda party from 1988 until 1991, and is a former political prisoner.

His detention comes after a wave of arrests of political opponents of President Kais Saied since February this year.

The former Ennahda leader spent around 18 years in prison under the regime of former president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali. A large amount of his time in jail was spent in isolation.

In a statement, the Ennahda movement condemned the targeting of its leaders "outside the framework of law, and in a manner that disrespects humanity."

"Dr. Sadok Chourou suffers from serious diseases, due to the remnants of the long solitary confinement period before the revolution, and targeting him psychologically and physically, [as well as] depriving him of medication may immediately expose his life to serious danger," the movement added.

Live Story

His arrest "caused panic" among his family members, they said.

Chourou is one of the most prominent earlier faces of the political group, and was a member of the Tunisian Constituent Assembly in 2011.

His apprehension comes after the arrest of current Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi last month, who was sentenced to one year in prison on Monday on "terrorism-related charges".

Ghannouchi is the most prominent opposition figure arrested following Saied’s July 2021 power grab, when the Tunisian president sacked the prime minister and suspended parliament. Since then, Saied has gone on to enact a much-criticised constitution cementing his authoritarian rule and arrested dozens of political opponents

Several other figures affiliated with Ennahda have been detained in recent months, including the party's deputy head Noureddine Bhiri and prominent leader Said Ferjani.