Tunisia continues intimidation of moderate Islamist Ennahda party with new crackdown

Tunisia continues intimidation of moderate Islamist Ennahda party with new crackdown
Tunisian Islamist opposition leader Rached Ghannouchi has been detained after warning of the negative repercussions of excluding political factions in the country.
3 min read
18 April, 2023
Ghannouchi was detained after warning that Tunisia was headed for civil war [Getty]

Tunisian authorities continued their crackdown on the moderate Islamist opposition this week with the arrest of Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi on Monday and the closure of his party offices.

The moderate Islamist party, formed by Ghannouchi, has been in crisis mode since a power grab by Tunisian President Kaid Saied, who has seized control of all legislative powers.

Ennahda was the largest party in parliament before Saied dissolved it and sacked the Tunisian government in 2021, effectively imposing authoritarian rule.

According to a video - the date of which was unclear - Ghannouchi warned during a meeting with opposition members that Tunisia was slipping into civil war due to a prolonged political crisis that began with Saied's power grab.

He was detained hours later.

It is the latest in a series of detentions of critics of President Kais Saied.

"[This is an] intellectual and ideological impediment in Tunisia, which in fact sets the ground for civil war. Picturing Tunisia without this or that party, Tunisia without a renaissance, Tunisia without political Islam, Tunisia without the left, Tunisia without any of these components, is a war project," Ghannouchi said in a meeting with the opposition National Salvation Front.

The veteran Ennahda leader was reportedly accused of making "inflammatory statements" following these comments.

"This [coup] is a scandal and must be condemned," Ghannouchi added.

Saied has repeatedly defended his actions by calling them "necessary" to save Tunisia from further chaos.

Ghannouchi’s comments seemed to touch on the government's continued repression of the Tunisian opposition, including his own Ennahda movement.

Following Ghannouchi’s arrest, authorities shut Ennahda party offices on Tuesday as they searched for "evidence" with Arabi21 saying they would remain closed for three days.

The offices of the opposition Movement Party were also shuttered.

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Ghannouchi was the speaker of Tunisia's parliament before Saied dissolved it. The opposition leader has been in court a number of times over different allegations, including terror-related charges and money laundering.

He has denied all these accusations and said they are part of Saied's ongoing campaign against the opposition.

Seifeddine Ferjani,  a political analyst and son of jailed Ennahda official Said Ferjani, told The New Arab that the latest crackdown follows a long line of repressive acts by the Tunisian president.

"These developments were expected, and it was only a matter of time," he said.

He added that Saied was taking advantage of the international community's preoccupation with Sudan and Libya to extinguish political dissent and distract from economic troubles.